Praise and self esteem

In an effort, or rather in the struggle the teacher faces trying to mold the character and personality of his/her student, fair praise is a discreet tool that brings forth marvelous results : the student feels the pleasant feeling that he has done the right thing , that he is on the right track , that the teacher recognizes his effort , and not only that but praise awakens in the child’s soul the desire and wish to go further ahead , to climb another step and to prove that it is worthy of new praise.

”It won’t allow me…”

Public praise , the ” well done ” of Athens to Miltiades, the leader of the Athenian general in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC ), was the strongest incentive that drove to action young Themistocles ,the one that in later years was to be the founder of the naval glory of Athens.

He used to say ” Miltiades tropy won’t let me slep”, meaning, his glory wont let me sleep, until I ‘ve achieved the same  .

He was so deeply attracted by achieving social standing , being hel at the higest aesteemed by his compatriots that he succeeded in later years to experience this feeling , as the victory of the Greeks against the Persians in the naval battle of Salamis was for him the crowning moment of of his life , his personal triumph .When later on he tasted the bitter cup of envy and slander by his countrymen he fled – unfortunately -to the courtyard of the Persian king , to save his life . He had everything he could wish for,  except the Athenians’ high esteem . And that filled his soul with great sorrow! Kavafis excellently puts his sorrow into words in his poem ”Satrapeia”

”Your soul craves other things, it weeps for other stuff,

the praise of the people and the sophists

the so hard and ever-so-priceless ”well-done!”  .



     When a child is raised in an environment of abundance and comfort , when he or she has everything – as the saying goes – then he or she appreciates nothing and his or her inner – and most critical – thermostat of self-esteem is at a low point . In this case, the ”well-done” and praise are waisted on theM.

    That child builds a malevolent character, unfit for the struggles of life that lies ahead . So when said child leaves the protective cocoon of his family , coming to terms with reality will be painful . Here is the result : failing to effectively deal with failures , frustration , sadness , depression . The way out : violence or any form of substance abuse . On the other hand , when a child is raided with  under discreet sur and support of larger , when learning to accept lacks and instant gratification , when putting in effort and welcoming the pain of failure and not getting frustrated by it , then he or she gradually builds a strong character and is ready for the battles that await him on the doorstep of adult life  . In his or her case, the encouragement and praise not only have their proper place in the child’s upbringing, but also help raise the internal thermostat of self-esteem of the child and are a strong motivation for even greater achievements .

Howver, discernment is needed here.

    Of course, with every praise ringing in our ears , we ought to pay attention to the moral standing of the one who praises us ; if a person is serious and reliable , then praise is fine .  But coming from a person of questionable character,  then be careful : if they are praising us, there are two possible explanations : we have either done something bad or we are being flattered so as to encourage us to do something improper.

Cynic philosopher Antisthenes (444 BC – 365 BC ) a charming ancient anecdotal story is as follows : “: when once some wiched people praised Antisthenes , he said :  I agonize over whether I have committed something wrong or not” .




The difficulties and hostile social environment the children of today and the adults if tomorrow are going to be facing make the task of education difficult and demanding. We wish to build a strong character and this is not done by providing caresses and comforts. No wonder the ancient Greek parents did not take over the task of educating their children, but rather this was the responsibility of an educator (often slave), to enable the latter – without regrets unexpectedly – to toughen up the child and prepare him so as to successfully overcome the difficulties of life.

The very strict and disciplined Leonidas, a relative of Olympiada’s mother, was the first educator of the later king of Macedonia, Alexander the Great.

So let us first offer to our children everything in moderation, in temperance, withholding some things from them, discipline, and then praise their proper efforts and steps, to lighten up in their hearts and awaken in their souls the longing for the highest and the greates. So be it !!


Γεννήθηκε στή Θεσσαλονίκη τό 1970 καί μεγάλωσε στίς Σέρρες. Τό 1992 ὁλοκλήρωσε τίς σπουδές του στό τμῆμα Κλασσικῆς Φιλολογίας τοῦ Α.Π.Θ. Τήν διετία 1994-96 ἐργάστηκε στό Παπάφειο Ἵδρυμα Θεσσαλονίκης ὡς φιλόλογος καί παιδαγωγός...

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