I spend a lot of time with children who seem exceptional - how could it be that most of the children I know are "exceptional"? (It's like being in Lake Wobegon!)
So I've decided that most of these children are fortunate enough to be members of exceptional families. Their parents are at least one of the following: very well educated, very thoughtful, financially secure, very available for both quantity and quality time. Praising my girls for what appears to me to be their extraordinary gifts feels silly when they're surrounded by children with extraordinary gifts. And when my kids go out into the world they're going to be in settings where they will encounter other children who come from such blessed backgrounds. What gives them the chutzpah they'll need to feel they can hold their own out in the world? I don't think that believing you are a "good" or "worthy" person is enough. Every child needs to grow up knowing that they can meet a difficult task, struggle with frustration and hard work (emotional, physical or intellectual), and then be rewarded with the satisfaction of making it through to the end of the process with or without success. Sometimes failure is a worthy accomplishment. If they can learn that, then they will not fear encountering something they cannot do.
I think that is one of my most important roles for Maggie and Elsa is to be their cheerleader. As a cheerleader it doesn't make a lot of sense to tell the team that they are strong or that they can throw the ball better than anyone else. Cheerleaders tell the team to keep going, to keep pushing, to keep their eyes on the prize.
This week I had the privilege of talking with a wise mom whose two sons are now grown. The boys were not "easy" and all three of them made mistakes, but she talked about how she was careful to help her sons find their own goals and support them in working hard toward those goals. The rewards came not from her (the parent), but from making progress, reassessing, and continuing to work as the goals and paths changed. These men are so lucky to have such a cheerleader in their court!