A common fear I hear from many of the parents I work with is that they worry about their kids having enough confidence…

Confidence to make friends…

Confidence to speak up for themselves at school…

Confidence to stand up for themselves in conflicts…

Confidence to go for what they want in life…

And so, so much more.

We need confidence to succeed in almost every area of our lives, and yet in order to build confidence in your child, you have get a grasp on something that we don’t totally understand.

These days, there is a lot of new research coming out that suggests that simply building our kids up with praise isn’t enough. And in some cases, it’s actually counterproductive.

Kids who grow up getting constant praise that is not necessarily tied to their actions or efforts get down on themselves when they feel they aren’t able to live up to the labels that have been put on them for most of their lives.

But there is a way that you can talk to your kids that actually instills a deep sense of certainty in their abilities and in who they are. It’s what we call acknowledgment.

Here is the difference between praise and acknowledgement –

Say for example your daughter is 11 years old and she always wakes up for school on time without having to be told or reminded. You might praise her by saying something like,

“Anna, you are such a good kid and really responsible.”

Or maybe your son comes home with A on a project in a class where he has struggled in the past. What is the natural response here?

“Johnny, I am so proud of you for getting an A on your project.”

While these statements are nice and make your kids feel good, the problem with praise is that it is vague, not connected to specific actions, and it doesn’t describe the specific behaviors that exhibit the qualities you are praising.  

Now here is what acknowledgment sounds like –

When you want to express to your daughter how great it is that she gets up for school on her own you might say,

“Anna, I appreciate so much how responsible you are about waking up for school on your own every day. It makes my mornings so much easier since I’m able to take my time getting up and taking care of your siblings and making breakfast.”

Or when your son makes a good grade on his project you might say,

“Johnny, it makes me so happy to see you making progress in that class. I know you have worked really hard to get where you are and I bet you feel proud of yourself too.”

Do you see the difference?

 

With praise, we tell our kids that they are smart, responsible, funny, and kind – and then when a situation comes up in their lives where they feel they don’t live up to those titles, they are disappointed in themselves and confused.

But when we explain exactly what it is that our kids do so well or that we appreciate about them, they understand how their actions and choices make a contribution and make them great people.

When you start talking in this way, not only will you build confidence in your child, you will set up an incredible kind of accountability where your kids know what is expected of them.

Using acknowledgement makes your kids feel seen and respected by you in a new way, they will gain an understanding of how their actions and their good qualities make a contribution to your family and to the world. And they will carry that confidence with them throughout their lives.

It takes some practice to learn how to word a great acknowledgment –

comment below with what you might say to your child to acknowledge them for something they already do really well!