What Self Esteem Is

Authentic self-esteem in children does not come from adults offering unearned rewards or praise. Kids as young as 7 know when they're hearing an untruth about themselves. For instance, if an adult tells a child how fabulously he just did at bat after he struck out, he'll sense the adult's false praise.

So what is effective praise? What works with children is the same as with adults. Praise works when it is ...

• Specific to an accomplishment

• Intermittent

Adults shouldn't give kids praise willy nilly. Simple, right? Apparently not, because in one national survey 85 percent of parents think it's important to tell their kids—early and often—how smart they are.

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