By Kelly Thornborrow, USAG Bavaria Family Advocacy Program EducatorJanuary 29, 2020
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Children are often compared to sponges, in that they absorb and learn about the world around them through interactions with others, particularly those in caregiving roles.
As an adult figure or caregiver in a child's life, your interactions with a child may help to foster their personal growth and a sense of self.
Self-esteem can be thought of as a lot of interconnected factors which lead to an individual's inner-confidence and self-identity. As an adult or caregiver, you can help to promote positive self-esteem growth in a child through celebrating differences, fostering open communication and showing that you love and appreciate one another.
One way that you can foster positive self-esteem growth during childhood is through effectively praising a child for their exploration or achievements. Effective praise names the action that is the reason for your praise and helps the child better understand what it is that they did well.
An example of effective praise would be saying, "Wow, you did such an amazing job by continuing to try new ways to build your tower, even after it fell over. I'm very proud of your problem solving."
Recognizing the exact action or reason why you are praising a child can also encourage repetition of their behavior over time. This also encourages children to feel better about themselves by clearly encouraging their efforts and building the belief that through hard work they may achieve or build upon a skill.
This is a concept based off work by psychologist Carol Dweck and is called a growth mindset. A growth mindset can also be described as having a belief that through learning and practice one can learn new skills and achieve.
In contrast to growth mindsets, Dweck has described fixed mindsets as a state of believing that your skills or abilities will not change regardless of effort. Ineffective praise may contribute to a fixed mindset or may make positive behavior repetition unlikely if it is not clear what is considered good behavior in that context.
Examples of less effective praise would be, "You're so smart," or "Good Job!"
Taking the time to think about how you talk to a child and making small changes like using more effective praise can help to build self-esteem in children and foster healthy social and emotional development.