I think I held back on praising them too much because I feared they'd become too full of themselves. Lately I've been wondering if I praise them enough.
I did a little research and found that I'm not alone. There are a lot of moms who have the same concerns. Self-confidence is so important. Children who are sure of themselves are less likely to become teenagers who "follow the crowd" or easily succumb to peer pressure.
There are a bunch of websites that offer some pretty good tips. For instance, researchers suggest you can build self-confidence in toddlers before they can even talk! Listen to their babble and be sure they know you're paying close attention to them. Allow them to make decisions in their day like which shirt to wear. And let them help with your chores.
My son is always trying to sweep and I have discouraged that fearing he'll make a mess. I'm going to try and let him spread his wings a little bit more.
I also found a great site that gave several specific ways you can help build confidence in kids. http://www.indiaparenting.com/confident-child/42_1043/7-confidence-builders.html I love to get really specific and easy tips. Read the full article, or check out my summary of the ones that seem most helpful.
1. Listen - Don't multi task! Really listen to every detail of their day and ask questions.
2. Don't Trivialize - The little fights and spats or worries about friendships are very important to your child. You can build self esteem by validating your child's feelings.
3. Don't criticize - Criticize the behavior not the child. I slip with this one a lot. But researchers suggest you say "You're a good boy. But hitting your sister was a bad thing to do".
4. Praise Often - This one seems obvious, but I think it's a good reminder. It's frankly something I fear I'm not doing enough. Researchers at Indiaparenting.com emphasize that praise is different from flattery. Praise your child for specific things they have done, even simple household tasks. If your praise is based on something they've achieved you build their self confidence in a positive and important way.