Creative Child

How to Raise a Secure Child During Times of Uncertainty

by Deborah Song


2. Don’t overpraise. Parents often think the key to building security and confidence is overpraise, but research shows otherwise. A study by developmental psychologist Eddie Brummelman at Ohio State University showed that children with low self-esteem were more likely to choose easier drawing tasks after receiving inflated statements of admiration. The logic behind the counter-intuitive consequence is that children sometimes interpret high praise as expectation, making them afraid of failure and disappointment. 

One simple way to counteract overpraise is to focus on a child’s efforts instead, because effort, unlike innate talent, is something a child can control. Compliments like, “You’re a genius,” or “You’re so smart,” don’t make a child feel secure in the long run. When you want to applaud your child for a job well done, try saying something like, “You really worked hard and it shows. Great job!”

3. Delight in her. It’s important to celebrate accomplishments with your child. But remember, she gains self-esteem when you delight in her, not just her achievements. Delighting in your child takes on many forms. Sometimes it just takes a smile across the room.

But perhaps one of the best ways to delight in your child is by spending time with her doing activities she likes to do. Nothing says, ‘I like you,’ and ‘I find you interesting,’ like partaking in an activity your child is interested in. Sometimes the best quality time requires no words at all.

If your child loves to play basketball, withhold some of those urges to constantly coach her – and the need to constantly check your phone - and just enjoy the sport alongside her. This type of quality time will help your child feel secure about who she is more than a thousand words ever could.

4. Know when to provide support and when to provide autonomy. Imagine a child learning to climb the jungle gyms. There are many ways a parent can provide support for a child. Your instinct might be to help, but sometimes the best move is to let him be and encourage self-reliance. While other times, he may need you to hold her hand. Remember also that when a child asks for help, he’s often really asking to make a connection. How do you strike the right balance?  Sometimes it’s as simple as letting your child take the lead and following his cues. Let him tell you what he needs. Parents don’t always know best.

5. Use mistakes to help your child and your relationship. Every parent gets tired, stressed out and preoccupied, which means we don’t always respond appropriately. However, making a mistake can be a chance to improve the bond with your child, as long as you’re willing to fix it. In fact, fixing a mistake can be more beneficial than avoiding mistakes altogether. You could argue that a perfect parent would not prepare a child for future relationships when they meet someone who can’t meet their every need. So how do you address mistakes?

First, acknowledge the need you neglected and apologize. If you raised your voice and sent your child to his room without fully listening to his story, go to his room, acknowledge the oversight, address the wrong, then end on a positive note like reading a story together. This will teach him that good things can follow the bad, and that even healthy relationships aren’t perfect.

Deborah Song is the founder of, a cruelty-free company committed to creating travel accessories that help travelers journey with ease, efficiency and elegance. She loves to travel the globe in pursuit of good food, wider life perspectives and great adventure stories with her kids. Deborah is a Canadian-born, mompreneur and Los Angeles-based writer, who obtained her master’s in journalism from New York University. You can find her travel stories at

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