Do you know that praising your child can backfire? You're probably trying to boost his self-esteem, and make him feel better about himself. When you praise the child, however, you are filling him with your own hopes and desires about who you want him to be. He may also feel incapable of living up to that high standard.  

But the day will come when you can't be by his side, assuring him that he is competent, strong and resilient. Then what? Who is he without all that?

Self-esteem is an inside job. It comes from doing good things and from picking yourself up when things don't go well. You want to be praising the effort and the attitude behind the actions and naming what you see.

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  • "You wanted to put off doing that assignment because writing is challenging, but you did it first and stuck with it. That's real determination."
  • "I saw how angry you were when your sister took your toy, but you didn't hit her or yell.  You asked for help and showed self-control."
  • "You were uncomfortable with what your friends were doing. It took courage to stand up, say it, and walk away."

Praise the effort, not the child. Watch your child blossom into the self-confident, independent person you know he can be. 

Fern Weis is a parent coach, specializing in supporting parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations (including underachieving, disrespectful behavior, addiction recovery and more).  With parent-centered coaching, Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life’s challenges.  Learn more about coaching and workshops at  

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.