It had to happen sometime. Around age 8, your self-assured, almost cocky kid will realize that some of his classmates run faster, have more friends, or get better grades than he does. "Children this age give up their feelings of grandiosity and become more realistic," says Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D., author of Trust Me, Mom -- Everyone Else Is Going!
Of course, your grade-schooler is aces in your book -- and you've been saying so from day one. But if you keep telling him he's the best on the soccer field when he knows he's not, you'll risk losing credibility. To raise your child's confidence without setting him up for disappointment:
Praise hard work over perfect results. Rather than just applaud when he gets an A, give him kudos for his concentration on a tough project.
Focus on a specific strength. Tell your child how well he passes the ball or how kind he is to his friends. The more targeted your compliments, the more meaningful they'll be.
Keep others out of it. Don't comment on siblings or peers. Even saying, "At least you did better than..." promotes constant comparison.
Soften the blow. If he's feeling inferior, steer him toward an activity you know he's good at, from a favorite game to helping a sib with homework.
Share your setbacks. Your kid will be heartened to learn that even you face disappointment -- and how you overcome it.