How Too Much Praise Made My Daughter Over-Confident
My youngest daughter is one of the most confident kids you'll ever meet. She appreciates her talents, has a carefree attitude, and a whole lot of gratitude for who she is... A very sure-of-herself kind of kid.
I thought I had done all the right things to empower her. She grew up in a loving home where praise and appreciation was the norm. She grew up knowing that self-love comes first and foremost.
I had done everything to raise a strong girl – no, a fierce one – with no shortage of self-esteem... A kid so self-assured she wouldn't balk at anything that came her way. But I almost ended up raising a brat.
The first time I started second-guessing my parenting skills was on a playdate much like any other. The girls were playing in my daughter's room when I suddenly overheard her cry out, "I really don't care what other people think!" And it wasn't just the words that came out of her mouth that upset me, it was the haughtiness in her tone. She had become cocky.
While most of us would consider an over-abundance of confidence a good thing, I was appalled. Had I raised her to be so confident that she had actually become too narrow-minded to hear someone else out? Did I give her the false belief that she is always in the right?!
Don't get me wrong, of course, it's important to raise kids to stand up for themselves, when necessary. But when it gets to the point that they feel better than... well, that's undeniably arrogance.
Confidence should come off as self-assured and attractive... like a magnet that draws other people. But my daughter's 'above it all' attitude, it was becoming ugly.
Easing Up on Empowerment
We all want to raise confident kids who become happy, successful adults. But I felt that her "I don't care what anyone else thinks" attitude wasn't going to serve her well in life (and that playdate was just the first instance of it). Instead of confident, she was coming off as rude, snobbish, and totally narrow-minded. She's too young to be set in her ways – to close herself off from other people's opinions and contributions. She's too young not to care.
If her confidence was closing her off to personal growth and change, isolating her, and causing her to disrespect others; it really had gone too far.
We had worked hard to build up her self-esteem and I didn't want to risk crushing the confidence out of her. But it was definitely time to ease up on the empowerment.
These are some of the steps we took to correct some of the negative attitudes that came with her confidence:
- Back off constant praise. Again, we really wanted to make sure that our daughter continued to believe in herself but not to overdo it in a way that's cocky or disrespectful. We continued to praise her for her most important achievements but made sure to make the praise count. It was definitely a question of focusing on quality over quantity when it came to compliments.
- Extend praise to others. We made more of an effort to recognize and praise the ideas, talents, and achievements that came from her friends and peers. Extending praise to others in her circle helped her see value in opinions and contributions outside her own.
- Instill empathy and compassion. We took opportunities to work on emotional intelligence through role-based games. Whether we watched a movie, read a book, or talked about our day, I would point out praise-worthy acts of kindness. We'd role-play different scenarios to show how cockiness can make others feel 'less than' or marginalized.
- Let someone else take the spotlight. For several months, I made sure that whenever my daughter and her friends were playing at our home, that all activities were totally inclusive. That meant, everyone had a chance to throw out ideas, make decisions, and be heard. While I usually don't like to step in and guide play during their playdates, I feel like this went a long way in helping her to see the value of opening herself up to other people's ideas.
- Work on humility. It's important to note that teaching humility doesn't mean humiliating your kids. But kids do need to know they're not the end-all-be-all. Instilling a true sense of gratitude is important here. So are apologies and manners. We had a sit-down talk with our daughter about how apologizing for your action may be needed at times, and how that differs apologizing for yourself.
- Teach her to accept criticism. When our daughter would throw out her "I don't care what anyone else thinks," we would take that as an opportunity for a discussion. We'd say, "Back up, hold on here... Let's see what was said and if there is any good in there before rejecting the comment entirely." Once we were able to break apart criticism, she could then better see if there was something constructive and useful in there before flat-out rejecting it.
Do you have very confident children? What are some of the obstacles they’ve had to deal with and how did they overcome them?
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