We all know that children need to be encouraged through recognition and praise. We want to build them up and help develop self-esteem, so we take advantage of every opportunity to say things like, "good job!", "I like the way you...." "I knew you could do it!".
Although these are positive statements intended to compliment the child's accomplishment, it also sends a message that focuses on our (the parent/ teacher) approval. "Good Job!", "I like the way you.....", and "I knew you could do it!", are all statements where the person making the statement, is the main subject. In other words, "What you have done pleases me and because you have pleased me, I am happy!."
Instead of saying, "You didn't cry! I'm very proud of you!"
Try this: "You didn't cry at swim lessons because you have worked so hard at being brave and coming to every class even when you didn't feel like it! "
Instead of saying: You didn't leave your shoes in the floor this time. I'm proud of you!"
Try saying: "You remembered to put your shoes away because you've been paying attention to our rule about picking up after yourself. You are really getting better at being responsible! Aren't you proud of yourself!"
True self-esteem comes from being proud of one's self. Knowing that the choices you have made and actions you have taken are meaningful. True self-esteem comes from within ourselves, not from the approval of others. As parents you are constantly guiding your children and teaching them about values and acceptable behavior. And of course you should be encouraging them with your recognition and praise, however, when you're ready to praise them, be sure to praise their actions, not their ability to please you.
Choices in the Baby Pool
Here at Little Otter, we teach our teachers and our parents to avoid asking "yes/no" questions to our little ones as a way to coax them into doing something we want. Why do we do this? Because, most of the time you're hoping for a "yes" and you'll get a "no". So, how do we do to encourage cooperation from an independent toddler? We give them a sense of independence by offering them a choice.
"Do you want to swim to the island?" This question just begs a two year old to take control and assert their independence, even if he really wanted to swim to the island.
Try saying, "Do you want to swim to the island by yourself or do you want me to help you?" This still gives your child a choice, but also creates a setting for cooperation.
Instead of saying: "Pick the sinkies up from the bottom." or "Do you want to pick up the sinkies?" Try this: Which color of sinkie would you like to get?"
When working on a skill that your child is especially uncomfortable with, distract them by taking the emphasis off of the skill and focus on the choice. "Which toy would you like to put on your tummy, the frog or the duck?" Don't use the toy itself as the distraction, but use their ability to make a choice as the distraction.