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Try These Confidence-Builders

In their book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish give several concrete examples of the do's and don'ts of confidence-building. Here are a few showing the difference between praise that evaluates children ("good ... smart ... great") and the technique of describing kids' efforts.

DON'T
Mom: You cleaned your room. What a good girl you are.
Daughter: (thinks) I'm not so good.  I stuffed some toys under the bed.

DO
Mom:  I see a lot of work has been going on here. All the blocks are back on the shelves, and every single marble has been picked up. It's a pleasure to walk into this room.
Daughter:  (thinks) I really know how to clean up when I want to.

DON'T
Dad: This is great. You write good poetry.
Son: (thinks) Does he really mean it?

DO
Dad: I'm very moved by your poem about the eagle.  I especially love the line, "The beat of giant wings."
Son: (thinks) I can write good poems!  Tomorrow I'll write another.

DON'T
Mom: Jill, you're terrific at math.
Jill: (thinks) I wish!

DO
Mom: Jill, you figured out that the cans of corn on sale are actually more expensive than those that aren't on sale. I'm impressed.
Jill: Yep. I got "the smarts!"

DON'T
You're a good boy.                  

DO
I see that you put your shirt on with the tag in the back, you zipped your pants, and you tied your own shoes. What a lot of different things you did yourself!

DON'T
You're a great actor.

DO
You were such a regal queen! You stood tall and straight, and when you gave your big speech, your voice filled the auditorium.

DON'T
You're an excellent student.

DO
Seems to me you're putting extra effort into your schoolwork these days. I notice your compositions are written more neatly, your reading is done ahead of time, and you've worked out a routine to teach yourself vocabulary.

DON'T
You're so thoughtful.

DO
I love this hand-drawn card you made me, and all the bright colors you used. Just looking at it cheers me up and makes me feel better.

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