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Building A Child's Self-Worth With Constructive Praise

Self worth is developed through positive reinforcement that is constructive.

Self worth is developed through positive reinforcement that is constructive.

Years ago during a teacher training session, I viewed a video called Zero In The Snow. It is a story about a little boy living with his parents who are so busy with life that they ignore his need for attention. His attempts to show his dad a picture drawn in school result in him being told to go away. He tries to get his mom to talk to him in the kitchen before breakfast and is waved away with, I'm busy right now." At school he sits quietly in the background, no one plays with him on the playground, and the teacher never acknowledges him at any time in the classroom. The story ends with the bus pulling up to his home, the door opens, and the little boy topples over into a snowbank. Dead from a broken heart.

As sad as the movie is, it points out how children receiving little or no positive encouragement through praise in the home or at school suffer emotionally. Such damage will deter growth socially and lead to poor self worth. Their self esteem is hampered through lack of positive reinforcements that help build a child's character.

Constructive praise and encouragement builds a child's self worth.

Constructive praise and encouragement builds a child's self worth.

Helpful Parenting Advice

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  • Is My Child Too Young To Read?
    Reading begins at birth. Teaching an infant or toddler to love books leads to higher social, emotional and intellectual aptitude in pre-school. Use learning activities to stimulate reading.

Parenting With Constructive Praise

A simple definition of self worth is, the opinion you have about yourself and the value you place on yourself. An example of self worth is your belief that you are a good person who deserves good things or your belief that you are a bad person who deserves bad things.(source:

As parents and teachers we have the privilege of building a child's self worth. When we see a child do a good deed or demonstrate good behavior we say, "I'm so proud of you!" or "Good job!", which is positive but it doesn't guide the child as to what was done that was worthy of the praise. Statements of praise must be constructive and lead the child to understand what he or she did was based on accomplishment.

Have you ever given your child too much of a good thing? if you constantly give your child extra helpings of dessert after dinner it will do more harm than good, and may even lose its value as a treat. In the same fashion, we must praise and encourage children so that they connect the words given with their ability to achieve success or accomplishments. If we use the same simple phrases such as, good job, nice effort, way to go, etc., we may give the impression that their self worth is based upon uncontrollable factors. Children cannot perceive how "good" is measured.

For example, your child shows you their report card which is all A's for the semester, you smile and say, "Wow, you are so smart!" Yes, she is smart but now you have set the standard for the next report card's scores. In her brain, it is recorded as, A's = Smart. If she fails to achieve theses high scores on the next report card, her self worth will drop. A better way to show your encouragement/praise is to say something like, "Good job on the report card. It shows that you are really working hard and enjoying your school work." This gives constructive praise and encourages the child on the action accomplished. She doesn't feel like there is a certain standard she has to achieve to be "good".

Parents and teachers will often use praise paired with negative sentiments. Offering praise in this way will negate the constructive encouragement meant to give the child a boost in self esteem. Here's an example, "Thanks for putting your toys away, Brandon, but your forgot to make your bed." It leads the child to think "I'm OK but I failed." That simple little word but negates what the child accomplished and will dampen their self worth.

Documentary On Using Praise Effectively


Constructive Self-Worth Phrasing

Shown below is a table with examples of positive praise. In the left column is the action the child accomplishes and in the right column is constructive praise or words of encouragement. The phrase will help a child understand how the effort or accomplishment was valued. This will encourage a repeat of the action and allow the child to build self worth with an understanding that what he or she does is meaningful.

Examples of Positive Praise

Chore/ActionPositive Praise

Child helps set the table

You really made the table look nice. There's a cup by every plate.

Child puts his toys away

You really helped get the job done fast and it helps everyone.

Child plays with friend

You and Kayla played together with the dolls for a long time this morning. That was really nice.

Child shows you his picture/creation

You look pleased. I like the way you used the different shades of color.

Child buttons coat by herself

You look happy that you were able to do this all by yourself.

Child asks you to watch them run

You have such strong legs and are running faster every day!

Child helps sister/friend

Your sister/friend was so happy to have your help today.


A simple, "Good job!" appropriately given at the right time may be all that is needed, but try to use phrases as often as possible so that a child will gain strong self worth from his accomplishments. If you have any additional suggestions to add to this content, please list them in the comment section below.

Before you leave and just for fun, take the quiz and see if you can figure out which phrase is the better praise in each of the sentences below.


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

Scroll to Continue
  1. Ashley finishes coloring a picture and asks, "Look, do you like it?"
    • Are you happy with it? It looks like you worked hard making all those flowers.
    • Yes, it's great.
  2. Javi speeds past you and asks, "Do you think I can run fast?"
    • You have really strong legs and are running faster every day!
    • Wow, that's pretty good.
  3. Kayla feeds the cat after dinner without a prompt from you.
    • Thank you for helping. When you help like this we all get done faster.
    • You are such a good girl.
    • I wish all children were as helpful as you are.
  4. Jonathan shares a cookie with his brother.
    • Your brother really enjoyed the cookie you shared together. Thank you for sharing.
    • You two are getting along so nicely.
    • Good job sharing that cookie!

Answer Key

  1. Are you happy with it? It looks like you worked hard making all those flowers.
  2. You have really strong legs and are running faster every day!
  3. Thank you for helping. When you help like this we all get done faster.
  4. Your brother really enjoyed the cookie you shared together. Thank you for sharing.


Dianna Mendez (author) on September 04, 2012:

Debbie, you are so right, the damage affects a person for their life. Therapy is usually needed to overcome the past influences.

Anjili, so glad you found this helpful. Love those kids, they are so much a part of your life and our world's next leaders!

Anjili from planet earth, a humanoid on September 04, 2012:

Thanks for great lesson on positive compliments to our children. They have recently observed my tendency to say "Not very bad". I feel a need to change these responses to more positive ones after going through your hub. Thanks for sharing. Voted up

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on September 04, 2012:

Thank you! It troubles me how so many parents are not aware or don't care about the damage they do to their child's self-esteem, sometimes damage that takes a lifetime or longer to undo.

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 04, 2012:

Debbie, self-esteem is important in knowing who are are. Without this confidence, you cannot relate to others well socially. Thank you for visiting here. Please feel free to link to yours and I will get over and view your article in a few. Take care.

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on September 04, 2012:

This is an excellent Hub that demonstrates just how important it is for parents to help their children build a healthy self-esteem. I also wrote on this topic "How to Build Your Child's Self-Esteem". May I link your Hub to mine?

Dianna Mendez (author) on September 01, 2012:

The girls, self worth allows us to open up to others to enjoy life. Thank you for your support of the topic. It is valued!

Theresa Ventu from Los Angeles, California on September 01, 2012:

Very good hub on self-worth teaches12345. Every child needs to be nurtured of its self-worth to be able to handle the obstacles in adult life.

My best friend in high school is a teacher based in Florida. I have high respect for your profession and dedication.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 31, 2012:

James, I thank you for stopping in to check out the hub. Congratulations on your perfect score! You should be proud of yourself -- good job! Enjoy your holiday weekend.

James A Watkins from Chicago on August 31, 2012:

I scored a 100%! I feel so god about myself. :D

Thank you for the good read.

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 23, 2012:

It is amazing at how praise can motivate and encourage a child to strive towards building good character. Too many times adults use negativity in pointing out a child's efforts. Great insight to this subject, Kristine. Thank you!

Kristine Manley from Atlanta, GA on August 23, 2012:

This Hub is right on the money. It is so important, not only to give a child praise, but to make sure the praise is validating the child, and even helps to build the child's character and self-esteem. Voted up!

Dianna Mendez (author) on August 18, 2012:

Toknowinfo, it is something that as adults we can help to build, a child alone may miss this. Great add to the content! Thanks for your support. Enjoy your day.

toknowinfo on August 18, 2012:

Great hub. It is so important to build a child's self esteem, and it doesn't happen automatically. Thanks for such a thoughtful hub. Rated up and useful.

Dianna Mendez (author) on July 07, 2012:

Your validation is valuable to me, Docmo. It's great to know a professional in the medical field agrees with the discussion. I am sure you could add so much to this. Thank you.

Mohan Kumar from UK on July 07, 2012:

Wonderful advice Dianna - every parent should read this. I see in my line of work so many cases of children starved for attentions and positive feedback and on the other hand there is a lot of non specific praise that gives them nothing to build on. Your article captures this so well with helpful, simple instructions and quiz. This is a keeper! Thank you -voted up and shared.

Dianna Mendez (author) on May 26, 2012:

Thanks, Formosangirl for stopping by the hub. I always enjoy your visits and look forward to your upbeat comments. Enjoy that special little child! Happy Memorial Day to you as well.

formosangirl from Los Angeles on May 26, 2012:

I am so glad that I read this article. It is a good reminder that I should tell my son that he did a great job on his grades rather than that he is smart. It is also a good reminder to continue to build my children's self esteem. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Dianna Mendez (author) on April 28, 2012:

I agree, Brandon, it is one of the most important jobs, parents (and teachers) have in life. Thanks for your positive feedback and for visiting the hub. I do appreciate your support. Have a great weekend.

Knowledge-Broker on April 28, 2012:

I can tell you are a very insightful person. I appreciate you attention to detail, explanations, and examples of how to use constructive praise effectively. I love kids and it is important to do our best to raise them as best we can.

Dianna Mendez (author) on April 11, 2012:

Thanks for the follow and for stopping in to visit. I can't think of anything that will help a child more than positive support at home. It does set the foundation for a successful future. Enjoy your day, Joelipoo!

Joel from Ohio on April 11, 2012:

This is such an important topic. Children are so precious and require our support as adults to guide them. We discussed the topic of encouragement and praise in several of my educational pyschology classes. It can make a huge difference in a child's life.

Dianna Mendez (author) on April 07, 2012:

Hi Kerlynb! Those quick approval phrases work well enough, but using a more constructive praise will give the child a gauge on what was "good" about the action. It does affirm strong character traits. Thanks for adding on extra insight to the hub -- great analysis! I always appreciate a visit from you. Have a blessed Easter weekend.

kerlynb from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ on April 06, 2012:

Hello! I found the fifth paragraph absolutely useful. I like the way you remind us that we cannot use packaged expressions like "good job" that can actually sound impersonal and vague in the long run. We have to use specifics to let kids know why they are actually good. Also, it helps them create a mental note of how great they were and how even greater they could become. I hope many teachers and parents would be able to read your hub. It is quite important that kids feel valued and special. Such feeling, I believe, would help them aim high and not fear failures at the same time because they know that they are very much well-accepted by people around them.

Dianna Mendez (author) on April 05, 2012:

Glad you got some good information from the hub, fibo777. Your daughter will benefit from your loving praise. Thanks for the visit and support. God bless you!

fibo777 from UK on April 05, 2012:

I am growing my daughter. I think I have to give her more attention and more praise to encourage her. Thanks for the hub. I enjoyed it and it was really useful. God bless you.

Dianna Mendez (author) on April 05, 2012:

Acaetnna, I am glad to see you on the hub! The movie was indeed a sad one to watch but it did get through to teachers on the importance reaching out to each child you teach. I thank you for leaving a comment and your added insight.

acaetnna from Guildford on April 05, 2012:

You have so much valuable information here. You are clearly a great teacher. Awesome work.

Sadly Zero in the Snow, from my teaching experience , happens far too frequently these days. Parents and teachers are often in too much of a rush to take time out for each child.

Dianna Mendez (author) on April 04, 2012:

Hey, Charlu! So glad you stopped in for a visit. Yes, positive reinforcement affirms a child's belief in himself. The praise gives him some idea of what it takes to be successful and enjoy life. I deeply appreciate your votes of support. Be well and safe.

Charlu from Florida on April 04, 2012:

Incredible hub with so much great information for everyone. I have always believed in positive reinforcement. Voted all the ups except for funny and thank you for sharing.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 29, 2012:

Katrine, you are already following this advice with your children, and as you said, it will help them to move in the right direction through life. Thanks for the positive support and your comments mean much to me. Blessings.

KatrineDalMonte on March 28, 2012:

This is a wonderful article. I strongly believe in a positive praise in order to build self-esteem and self-worth in children. My children get both stickers and certificates at school as a recognition of their good behaviour and achievements. At home we praise them for everything good they do and help with. This will naturally encourage them to continue moving in a right direction in their life.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 26, 2012:

Lee, you are such an encouragement to me. Thanks for your supportive votes and comment. Be blessed in your walk today.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 26, 2012:

I am glad you got something out of the hub, Nybride. I agree that any age would benefit from constructive praise. It is what we seek to vaidate our inner self. Thanks for the support and visit. Tell your sweet daughter "hello" for me.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 26, 2012:

Hey, Angela! Your visit here is most welcome and appreciated. Exactly so, if you say the same thing over and over it loses credability with your child. Thank you for your support. Be well.

Drtruthman from Harlingen, Texas on March 26, 2012:

Wonderful article as usual. Constructive praise is always useful in behavioral modification and character building.

I might add it works well with adults as well. Great job. I thought the Hub construction was quite good with the photos and poll. I vote up all across. Lee

Lisa Kroulik from North Dakota on March 25, 2012:

I like your specific advice and phrases to use. They tell a child what he or she is doing right and how it pleases the parent. As the mom of a teenager who struggles with depression and low self-esteem at times, I'm always looking for new ways to reach her.

Angela Kane from Las Vegas, Nevada on March 25, 2012:

I agree completely with constructive praise for children. Most parents just say good job which is fine, but being too positive creates kids who are always needing approval and who become spoiled.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

Amberld, we are not perfect, so if we get it once in a while it will make a difference. Kids just love to hear this kind of praise from those they admire. It makes them "beam" inside. I am sure you are a terrific teacher as well. Thank for your visit and kind support of this hub. Blessings.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

You are so right, Millionaire, this would work in management situations. They call it positive reinforcement at that level. Good add on to the hub! Thank you for coming in, sharing with others and for your supportive vote!

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

You have me smiling, Ardie! Yes, it seems some parents give out praise for anything and the kid connects it to "They aren't even listening!" Constructive praise opens the door to discussion as well, which is what we want between parent and child. Open monologues lead to building of the child's self awareness. I enjoyed chatting with you today. Thanks for the supportive comment and additional insight to this article.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

Praise is what really motivates any of us to action, and constructive praise actually points out the action, which leads to a feeling of accomplishment. Thanky you, Thoghtforce, for your comment and vote of support.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

Thank you, Dr Pastor Carlotta for stopping by for a visit. I so appreciate your comment and support. I hope you got something out of the article. Be blessed in your walk today.

Amber White from New Glarus, WI on March 25, 2012:

Wonderful hub. As a former (and future) teacher, I have learned how to do positive praise in my studies. Sometimes at home, though, I forget I need to tell my kids why they are good and what it is specifically that they have done I am happy about. This is a great reminder of how to do it right! Thank you!

Shasta Matova from USA on March 25, 2012:

This is excellent advice, and I agree totally. Implementing it is much harder of course, but I do try. I think this technique would also work in management and dealing with our friends and coworkers as well. Voted up and shared.

Sondra from Neverland on March 25, 2012:

I read the story about the video you watched and MY poor heart broke too! All children need attention (positive, quality attention) from their parents. And you're right. The kid doesn't/shouldn't just hear good job. He or she should hear WHAT was considered a good job and WHY it was considered a good job. I admit I have my busy moments too, but I always try to expand upon praise for my kids. Too many vague praises and your child will tune you out anyway. "Hm, mom said good job when I got an A and she said good job when I got a D. Does she even pay attention??" I actually had a friend once who said good job, way to go, cool, or awesome no matter what her kid did. It was hilarious (and sad) when the kid walked up to mom and said "I pee'd my pants" and the mom (without even paying attention or thinking) blurted out "Cool, good job!"

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on March 25, 2012:

I love the way you have written this and I agree with you totally! It is so important to praise others in the right way. Voted up, and more!


Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on March 25, 2012:

The title caught my eyes!!! Well written Hub! Voted-Up! Be Blessed....

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

Thank you, Mary. I am glad you stopped in to visit and agree with the suggestions. I appreciate your support.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 25, 2012:

Ripplemaker, Thanks for the positive encouagement and sharing with teachers. If it helps just one child, it will make a difference in this world. Enjoyed your visits and supportive vote. Be well and safe!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on March 24, 2012:

You have written another great hub. I agree with everything you advise in this hub. Thanks.

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on March 24, 2012:

I love this hub and this very important topic! I like how you gave samples on what to say instead of just saying 'very good." I would like my preschool teachers to read this! Voted awesome :)

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 24, 2012:

TeacherJoe, children do respond to positive nurturing guidance and will strive to do better with each attempt. It is praise that is constructive and leads to a healthy self worth. Thank you for the added insight to the hub. I always enjoy your visit!

teacherjoe52 on March 23, 2012:

I agree.

Sometimes a student will fail when I ask them something. I give them a little hug and praise them.At first they are confused. It is explained to them :"You tried and I am proud of you for trying." After a while they will do anything for me and their self esteem skyrockets.

Then they make things for me. I point out what ever is interesting and ask them to exlain it to me. They eagerly reply. Then I give them a little hug and say thank you for being so considerate.

When they don't try I merely look them in the eye and explain that that s lazy and not aceptable. I know they can do better. Usually they redo the work much better and it is explained to them them should always try their hardest.

Sometimes they just don't get what I am trying to teach or can't do it. When they cry it is explained to them if we never fail we will never experience the joy of succeeding.

My children are most of the time very co operative and respectful with me (we are all naughty sometimes).

It's funny because when they are naughty at home their momma's march them into my class for me to discipline them because they listen to me more than momma.

Very good hub and great points.

Good girl.

God bless you.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 23, 2012:

I am sorry to hear of your childhood experience. It is wonderful that you have used it to make life better for your children. I am so encouraged by your comment and reflection of praise. Thanks for the vote of support, Eddy. Pleasant thoughts and walk today!

Eiddwen from Wales on March 23, 2012:

A wonderful hub and how important it is to boost a child's confidence.

I as a child was ridiculed by a sadisitic father in all that I did ;so I for one am only too aware of the importance of this subject.

However when I had my own children I virtually reversed my own childhood;their work and all they did was so important to me and I was always so proud of every single one of them.

Thank you for this great hub ;I vote up pluds bookmark into 'My special hubs'.

Take care and have a wonderful weekend.


Dianna Mendez (author) on March 23, 2012:

Hello and welcome hyphenbird! I was guilty of using "no" at times with my child and then felt guilty later (had to backtrack on my parenting). As you pointed out, Positive praise does let a child know they are valued and leads to good choices. Thanks for the additional insight on the topic.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 23, 2012:

Your comment and votes mean much to me, Christy. I hope that the advice does help parents in raising the self esteem of their children. Thanks for stopping by.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 23, 2012:

Frog Prince, thank you for the encouraging comment. It is true that we all need constructive praise in our lives. This would make a lot of difference to some adults in the workplace.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on March 22, 2012:

This is a great Hub about positive parenting. Children hear NO and feel neglected so much. They must be cherished and led to know they are valuable and make good choices. I agree with the commenter above. Many people can benefit from this advice.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on March 22, 2012:

I like that you give specific examples of positive praise here. This will be helpful for many parents (and their children as a result!). I vote up.

The Frog Prince from Arlington, TX on March 22, 2012:

teaches - Maybe you need to spread yourself around more with sound advice. Great article and even adults need praise.


Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

Practical, we teachers all slip up and "oops" have to backtrack our methods. As I stated above, it takes practice, and even if we get it right half the time, it will help a child understand it's what he/she does that makes a difference.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

AliciaC, I am sure that you are already on top of this way of encouragement but I am glad that you got some useful information from the hub. Glad to see you stop by and thanks for the support.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

Give your brother a big "high five" for me in encouraging with constructive praise. His kids are going to well balanced in life. Thanks for the visit, comment and vote of support, Alocsin!

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

Agree, cleaner3, all children need to be loved and supported with positive encouragement. My heart does ache for those I see who carry a low self worth. However, through people like you, we can make a difference out there through positive writing influence. Thanks for your stopping in and have a wonderful day.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

Thank you Sturgeionl! I appreciate your positive statements of praise for children. I hope it does help parents to build up a child's self worth. Thanks for the vote of support. Be blessed today in your journey.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

Billybuc, I thank you for your enthusiastic support, and yes, it would have been great to work alongside someone of your passion and educational outlook. As it is, we will continue to try to reach those brought to us (and learn from) through our online resources. Thank you for your support.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

There are so many hurting children out there who silently suffer. I wish I could bring them home and nuture their self worth. Love the ones you have been given in life.. it is so rewarding. Thanks for the visit and your support, Michele.

Dianna Mendez (author) on March 22, 2012:

There is so much more to praise and encouragement but this hits the basics. Sofs, glad you stopped in and I am so thankful for your comments and vote.

Marissa from United States on March 22, 2012:

Excellent hub outlining the benefits of constructive praise! My husband and I were just discussing this same thing last night, when one of us slipped and said to our son "You're so smart!". We should have known better as teachers, but as parents at the end of a long day, sometimes we just forget. Luckily he and his sister are still young and we have many more years of practicing constructive praise! ;)

Voted up and useful!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 22, 2012:

You've given some very helpful and important suggestions in this hub, teaches, and the video was very interesting. Thank you for all the great ideas for me to think about!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 22, 2012:

Excellent advice. I especially like the example table. My brother already does most of this with his kid, but I'll forward this hub over to him. Voting this Up and Useful.

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on March 22, 2012:

teaches, youhave put together a fine hub. thanks for sharing.All children should be supported and encouraged as they grow.

Sturgeonl on March 22, 2012:

Self-esteem is so important!!! The specific examples of how to deliver praise to children is very useful and can make a huge difference in a child's life. I hope this article touches a lot of parents. Voted up and awesome.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2012:

Bravo my friend! I have no doubt you are a wonderful educator and I would have been proud to work alongside of you. We could have done fantastic things together. I love you attitude, love your passion, love your commitment.

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on March 22, 2012:

love this hub and hope more people read it, and respond to it. A few days ago, I saw the Dr. Phil show. It was about people who had children who behaved badly. They showed on video how the parents acted at home. Many of the parents yelled, cursed, hit, one even pushed his child into a wall while in the home. I did not see the the next show, how Dr. Phil told the parents how to change their behavior and what they do effects how their children's behavior. Anyway, this is a wonderful hub. Thank you. Voted this hub up and hope more people read it. It is wonderful.

Sophie on March 22, 2012:

This is such an important article. I am glad you chose to write on this subject. Well written. Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful day! Voted up, useful and interesting.

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