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Can letting your kid fail a little, do a lot for him?

HVParent talks to local experts

We know that our Hudson Valley parents want to provide a strong support system for their child. What they may not realize is how praising kids from day one actually hurts them later on when they don’t do as well on tests or in competitions. The trick as a parent is to learn how to balance failure with praise.

Raising confident kids does not have to be the largest obstacle you will encounter — at least according to some local parenting experts.

Keep a balanced perspective when coaching kids
Remember that your child is not in the pro league. “Parents and coaches have to keep everything in perspective and let kids develop skills, have fun and compete with some balance,” says Jan Weido, recreation director at Astor Counseling Center in Poughkeepsie.

Every activity your child attempts will not be his strength and you have to accept that. Weido adds, “Parents have to give their kid choices and know that not everybody is going to be an athlete; there are other avenues like music, art and dance.” 

Children observe everything we do and say
Whether or not you realize it, your child is paying attention to your words and actions. “We develop a sense of self from the way we perceive ourselves and the way parents respond helps kids develop their self-esteem,” says Suzan Sussmann, parenting education coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County in Middletown.

It’s important to believe in your child and help him feel that he contribute something to the family.  “Sometimes responsibilities within the family unit help build self-esteem and show kids they have a purpose,” said Sussmann. 

Your home should be a safe place where kids feel loved and capable. “If they do something wrong like drawing on the walls, it is important for the caregiver to say ‘drawing on the walls is wrong’ as opposed to ‘you are bad.’ Talk about the behavior as opposed to the person,” she says.   

Be careful when praising too much
When you praise your child, be specific. Saying to a child you are smart is not necessarily the praise that will help him feel better about himself because sometimes it is out of his control.

“If you say ‘I can tell you worked hard on drawing that picture,’ it gives him more specific information and helps him focus on what he had control over,” Sussmann notes. Think brightly.  “Research says that children hear thirty negatives for every positive so it is important that you are careful in your wording,” says Sussmann. Excessive praise or high fives can lose their effect.

If there’s a bad test, for example, your child will feel more empowered if you ask him what he could do next time to improve the grade. Sussmann notes that rather than lecture, let your child explain their feelings and let them be part of the solution. 

Jamie Lober writes frequently on parenting topics for HV Parent magazine.