Self Esteem and the Bright and Challenging Child

Last night I gave a talk at The Hall School in Swiss Cottage and to keep myself on track and pace myself I prepared a Powerpoint presentation of key points. I find it easier to ‘talk to’ than having notes if I’m talking for a couple of hours.

Lots of parents asked if they could have a copy of the slides so here are the most pertinent ones. If you want more then buy the book! (Its Not Fair – Parenting the Bright and Challenging Child, Gill Hines and Alison Baverstock, Piatkus)

Tips for supporting self esteem development

  • Avoid making comparisons.
  • Question, but don’t argue with, any self-deprecating comments.
  • Let go of that horribly British modesty!
  • Encourage a sense of achievement that has nothing to do with anyone else.
  • Create a praise and constructive criticism climate for all

Giving criticism

  • Always praise something good first
  • Point out negative simply and without emphasis
  • Outline change required/suggested or ask for ideas for improvement
  • Praise their willingness to listen and take on board change

The Three Questions
1.  What did you do?
Keep repeating the question without being diverted until it is answered.  If the child is bursting to tell you what someone else did just repeat ‘I’m not asking what did so and so do,  I’m asking what did you do?’
This is about getting them to take responsibility for their own behaviour.
2.  What should/could you have done?
This is about getting them to acknowledge that they know the ‘rules’ either formal or informal about behaviour.

If there are no apparent rules it is about encouraging them to think about the choices they might have made.

3.  What can you do now to put things right?
You don’t have to accept the first suggestion. If the wrong doing was against someone else they should be the one to accept or refuse the proffered solution unless it feels unsafe for them to be in this situation

Helping the B&C child accept mistakes

  • Make honest appraisal the task
  • ‘Normalise’ mistakes – but don’t accept excuses
  • Create damage limitation strategies together
  • Use non blaming/restorative techniques

Try to avoid:

  • Blaming phrases
  • Nagging
  • Public criticism
  • Teasing – however well meant

General tips for parents of Bright and Challenging Children

  • Clear and detailed boundaries – regular self assessment – involve them
  • Not allowing them to ‘hook’ you into dialogue (No ‘what if..’ questions)
  • Instructions repeated once – with rationale where appropriate
  • Ensuring plenty of carefully developed empathy building opportunities
  • Prepare your child for adolescence – additional and early harm reduction
  • Use their desire to win to do the right things

Picture: Girl in a Green Hat © Trevor Goodwin |



  1. I have just started to read ‘Whatever!’ and wondered if there were any workshops I could attend. I live in Egham in Surrey

    1. I will be having a whole series of parent workshops coming very shortly – I’m just sorting out a suitable venue at the moment. In the meantime schools can still host workshops and I can send information on request.

      I’ll be posting details about the workshops here on my blog and also on my (not quite finished – story of my life) website

      I’m also taking on some private clients if anyone feels the need for some one on one support.

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