5 Ways to Build Self-Affirmation in Kids

5 Ways to Build Self-Affirmation in KidsMy grief therapist leans back in her chair and looks at me. We’re in the middle of why I feel so strongly about what the response is to things I write online.

“Do you feel you have a low, average, or high need for approval from others?”

I wonder how she’s managed to keep a straight face asking that to me.

“Um, very high.”

“And why do you think that?”

I ponder it for a second and then crack a smile. “Because I leave my blog comments on.”

In all honesty though, I have a high need for praise and affirmation. While part of it is just my personality, most of it probably came from this outpouring a few decades ago of making sure all of us children felt good about ourselves. Felt special.

You know that saying though – “When everyone is special, then no one is special.”

So many of us were raised as over-praised children; in school systems, at home, by coaches, and life in general. Everyone got a medal. Everyone got a chance. Everyone made the team. Everyone got a gold star, a do-over, a second try, an extended deadline.

Then we grew up and passed this on to our children. We praise them for nearly everything from birth. Don’t get me wrong, children need affirmation. They need to hear they are loved and special in their families’ eyes. They need to be told what they are good at in life.

What they don’t need is to be told they’re good/special/amazing at everything they do.

Quite simply, they’re not.

What they truly need is self-affirmation. The ability to tell themselves, “I can do this and do it well – regardless of being praised for the result” or “This is something I’m not good at and that’s ok.” The often unconscious over-praising from all of us isn’t helping anything in our society. It produces self-absorbed, confused adults who can’t understand why they would ever be passed up for a raise or turned down for a date.

If you want to help your child become an adult that sees mistakes as a way to grow, who can persevere under pressure, and who accepts that they’re never going to excel at everything (but are able to direct their time and talents where it matters), then read on for ways to help them not rely on others’ affirmations.


  • They Shared. The End. 1 of 5

    I don't know why, but as parents we tend to treat sharing as the EPITOME of all early childhood accomplishments. Your kid shared and you didn't remind them? The praise lavished by most of us probably rivals someone who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, focus on them like this, "Look at your friend Kate's face since you shared your book with her. She looks really happy."

  • Challenge Them 2 of 5

    Don't praise for work half-heartedly or sloppily done. If you know that your child is able to do better, ask them to. There is nothing wrong with saying, "What do you think, is that your best work?" Let them answer it - and then move on. Don't dwell on it positively or negatively. They've made a choice about what they chose to present.  

  • Avoid Praising the Mundane 3 of 5

    Your kid draws a picture and hands it to you. What's our first response? "I love this, you did such a good job!" Instead, ask about the picture. Have them point out different shapes or colors. Ask why they drew it, or what it means. 

  • Leave Them Alone 4 of 5

    Let the praise be from peers at times. Instead of being the voice of, "You're all so amazing" 24-7, let the kids share it among themselves. On the flip side, let them accept criticism as well. As long as it's not demeaning or bullying, there is nothing wrong with a child hearing from another that they need to work on something. 

  • I Love to Watch You… 5 of 5

    This article on The Huffington Post changed the way I parent Bella with the 6 words of, "I love to watch you play." Instead of my constant, "Great job, you did so good, look at you!" response, it challenged me to come up with something else. I tell her now, "I love to watch you learn how to ride your bike." The response is different too. Where she used to smile and move on, now she asks, "Why?" or chatters on about how hard she's worked. 



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Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working MomsShe Reads TruthThe New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Smaller glimpses into her day are on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.


Article Posted 3 years Ago

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