If you want your children to grow up in the best version of themselves, it's crucial to replace damaging words in your vocabulary with alternatives that help build character. Some of the things parents say to kids seem harmless or even constructive on the surface, but, experts say, they may hurt more than help.
For example, for years, we've been told that boosting a child's self-esteem is important to his or her success in life. But child experts are now learning that too much praise can backfire. Praiseaholic tykes who expect compliments at every turn may become teens who see the same kind of approval from their friends who offer them a cigarette or an alcoholic drink. The implication of saying "You're the prettiest girl in class" is that you love her only because she is beautiful; talking about the goal she achieved but not her overall effort indicates that you care it about her accomplishments, not her overall effort. And this attitude carries over into the classroom.
At Columbia University in New York, social psychologist Carol Dweek tested the effects of overpraise on 400 fifth graders. She found that kids who were praised for "trying hard" did better on tests and were more likely to take on difficult assignments than those lauded for being "smart."
"Praising attributes or abilities makes a false promise that success will come to you because you have that trait, and it devalues effort, so children are afraid to take on challenges," says Dweek. "They figure they'd better quit while they're ahead."