One of the biggest things I stress as a life coach, and one of the most difficult things for kids to understand, is to look at all progress and achievements as positive, even if we don’t reach our goals. It is easy to get discouraged and think, “I only lost 10lbs, not 15,” or, “I only got an A- on that test, not an A.”
We have already spoken about the power of setting goals with your children and how important it is to not view life in terms of all or nothing. Today, I will show you five ways I help kids see every accomplishment as a positive.
1. Praise Properly. Kids are products of their environments, a combination of home, school, sports, and everywhere else they spend time. In a lot of these environments, success is seen as black and white: you did all your chores, you got all As on your report card, you beat the other team.
Unfortunately, your child will not always be successful in every environment. Teach them to see the brighter side of things by praising their effort, their growth, and their behaviour.
2. Encourage and Reward. We know that developing a strong work ethic in your child means not rewarding them for every success or every attempt. However, that does not mean that you should not acknowledge every one of these. Even if it is something as simple as taking out the trash and crossing it off their chore list, encourage that behaviour with, “Thanks for taking out the trash, it’s a real help!”
Don’t be shallow with the words you use with you kids, though. Be specific and engage them. Make them feel like they are contributing or that you are interested in what they are doing.
3. Ban Overgeneralizations. Using terms like always and never can have long-lasting impacts on your child’s mental health and their development growing up. It also mitigates their successes.
If they always fail their math tests, then they won’t be happy achieving that C—even if their previous efforts got them a D. If they can never be as fast as their sibling, then they won’t see the success in beating their person best record!
Ask your child to be specific in their language and stop them from overgeneralizing.
4. Praise more than you criticize. We all want our children to be the best and there is nothing wrong with that. However, child psychologists all agree that developing a positive mindset in your child means praising them more than you criticize them.
Aim to praise your child six times a day, at least. These can be small things—like chores, helping with dinner, trying their best at practice—or big things—like winning a game, bringing home a report card that shows progress—but both should be praised nonetheless.
Criticizing is important, but make sure that you do it in a way that leads to growth, not just hurt feelings. Be careful not to praise too much, though, or it will lose its value.
You can try as hard as you want to get your child to see the bright side of things, but ultimately it comes down to them. Reflecting on their day is a very healthy habit to establish with your child.
When your child is telling you about their day, watch out for any negative comments about themselves or others. Get them to explain the situation more and highlight any positives within their story. They might not have scored the game-winning goal, but they got an assist that game. They might think that anyone could have accomplished what they did, but they still accomplished it and they should feel proud!
It’s human nature to see the negatives before we see the positives. It’s way easier to discount yourself than it is to praise yourself. But getting a kid to see the positives in all their work, even if they didn’t achieve exactly what they wanted, will have long-term benefits and make every day that much brighter for them.