Stay specific in your praise
While not praising a child enough can lead to low self-esteem, giving too much praise can make for a kiddo who is dependent upon the accolades. However, being skill- or task-specific in praise can actually help boost a child's self-esteem. Delivering a "Great job on your history project!" is the right way to praise -- while a simple "Great job!" is a vague compliment.
Spotlight the effort in the achievement
Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to praise, offers behavior therapist and author Kirk Martin, celebratecalm.com. ""You can devalue the praise if it is overly emotional in tone and not specific," he says. So instead of highlighting a child's ability, be sure to offer praise based on the effort, too -- letting him or her know that hard work really does pay off. In lieu of just telling your child they are smart, serve up some accolades about how hard they worked to get through the assignment.
Focus on the child's own accomplishments
It may be easy to compare children to one another, but it's also a sure-fire way to squelch a child's self-esteem. However, that doesn't mean making mention of progress is off-limits. Simply mark the child's achievements compared to his or her own past performance, such as, "You're working through your history homework so much faster than yesterday." And avoid equating success against the performance of others.
Remember that even after mastering the art of how to praise your children, be cautious not to hand out accolades for every achievement. Children can become dependent upon approval for his or her every move -- losing the motivation to do something just because it feels good. In the end, whether it's parenting or praising a child, the key is balance!