by SARA AHMAD
Big kids no longer buy that they're "the best." Try these more sincere forms of flattery
Remember the days when your preschooler showed you every last drop of paint he splattered on paper so you could rave about it? And when you could talk your kindergartener into playing soccer just by telling her how awesome she was? Well, it seems whatever worked then is not working any more.
When kids get to be 7 and 8, they transition from being overly optimistic about their abilities to being realistic. They're beginning to know what they are capable of, how good they are at it, how they measure up to their classmates, and when the praise their parents give them rings true. Increase her self-esteem by tweaking your compliments that sound legit to her.
Canned: "This is the most creative art project."
Credible: "Your art project is even more detailed than last time."
Emphasising improvement will keep your kid motivated when his work doesn't receive the top grade in class, or get picked to be displayed on the school's bulletin board. If your kid did, in fact, get the highest mark, still resist comparing his grade with his classmates. Chances are, there will be times when your child doesn't do as well as his peers, and not hearing the usual "You're the best!" may make him sulk. Saying 'best' doesn't always work, especially, when your kid knows that someone else's work was best!
Canned: "I'm proud you didn't get anything wrong on the spelling test."
Credible: "You worked hard on memorising the words."
Acknowledge the process your child went through to reach her goal not just the end result. By praising a child's effort, you help her to be confident about taking on new challenges. It also instills resilience, which will come in handy when the going gets rough for example, when she doesn't get the part she wanted in the dance competition or a play.
Canned: "You're a perfect big brother."
Credible: "That's pretty good how you helped your little sister put her toys away."
Kids of this age trust understated praise more than overstated praise. That's because over the top enthusiasm can feel manipulative, whereas low-key praise seems more honest. Another tactic that works: "gossip" praise. You're talking to your mom on the phone when your son walks in; quietly tell your mom, "Ali got right to work on his homework." Make it loud enough so he can just overhear you. If your son comes back with an 'I heard that', you know you've done it right. It's a curious phenomenon, but people believe things they overhear more than things that are told to them.
Canned: "You did a terrific job selling at school fair!"
Credible: "It was smart when you asked customers to buy your craft."
Specific praise seems more legit to kids than a blanket statement. Plus, it helps a kid understand what she did right and what future strategies would be useful. Karachi-based Ahmed follows this mantra while playing snakes and ladders, or ludo with his 5-year-old son Zain. "When he scores six, I say, "You throw dice so smartly that you always score a six," says Ahmed.
Canned: "It's so exciting that you won a ribbon at the science fair."
Credible: "Would you like to tell me about this ribbon?"
Instead of reacting right away, allow your child to evaluate his own work; it lays the foundation for building self-esteem. When you rush in with praise, it can derail your child's introspection. Being quick to praise may create anxiety because the child feels that he has to perform better. Instead, offer praise after he has a chance to explain his accomplishment.
Canned: "I'm so proud of your school report."
Credible: "You must be proud of your report."
While your opinion still matters to your child, she's developing her own sense of accomplishment. During this phase, turn the tables with your praise. You'll be supporting her emerging autonomy and helping her feel responsible for her achievements.