Pandemic parenting: Quick strategies for reducing conflict and increasing self-esteem with young children

Alida Gage, Ph.D., HSP
Licensed Psychologist
Clinical Director, Lakeside Behavioral Health Systems, Child/Adolescent Services

Raising young children in the best of circumstances, while rewarding and joyful, can sometimes feel frustrating and overwhelming to say the least (I am the mother of two young children myself, so I know it’s been a wild year). During the pandemic, parents and caregivers have lost many of the support systems we have come to rely on in keeping our kids, and ourselves, happy and healthy. The absence of outside caregivers and social contacts have left kids to increasingly rely on parents alone for more of their needs.  In response, I’ve identified the top two most impactful ways to reduce conflict and improve children’s self-esteem to help us get through this time stronger than ever.

Top “DO”: Praise.

Praise is the single most effective reward we can use to shape the behavior of our kids and to improve the way they think about themselves.

Don’t be afraid of “spoiling” the kids, there are no negative effects of praise!

Praising a child has many benefits. Praise costs nothing. It increases positive interactions with our child, increases desired behaviors, and helps us understand and respond to our child more effectively. It also builds self-esteem for our child and ourselves. In short, praising our kids generously forms a valued connection. As a result, kids have more to lose when they make bad choices.

That which is praised will be repeated!

The goal is to make our praises frequent, labeled, and timely.  Praise should be so frequent that it becomes one of the main ways we communicate with our children.  Praise must be labeled in order to be most effective. We must specify exactly which behavior the child has just done in order for them to know what they have done right!

Examples of Praise Statements for Children

  • “Lance, thank you for listening and minding.”
  • “I like how you’re sharing with your sister, Stacie.”
  • “Krystle, you’re working hard at your homework.”
  • “Thank you for trying to compromise, even though it’s hard, Jasmine.”
  • “Lisa, I can see how frustrated you are, and I’m proud of you for using gentle words.”

*Source: National Institutes of Health

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