Are High Fives The Key To A Child’s Future Success In Life?

Have you ever seen someone walk out of room standing tall, with a big smile on their face and an air of self-confidence that almost feels infectious? Chances are they just received some sort of validation. In my last blog post I talked about the importance of validating children. Today I want to get into some tips and tricks for implementing more validation towards the children in your care.

I have worked with children and youth for 20 years. I was always amazed at how many times kids in my programs were waiting to be made wrong. They assumed anytime a staff member approached them it was to deliver “bad” news. I noticed this a lot when I ran my summer camp, so we implemented all kinds of strategies amongst the staff to counteract that knee-jerk reaction.

One of the strategies we used was an activity called High-Fives. These were little notes that staff and campers would use for thanking someone, giving a compliment, acknowledging something a person did well and random kindness messages. It was always so rewarding to see someone’s face light up when they received one!

You can download printable high five note sheets here

It completely changed their mood, their viewpoint on the person who gave it to them and their sense of self-worth. You could immediately see that they smiled more, stood taller and strutted away feeling awesome. It was a moment of success for them.

On its own it may not seem like a big deal. But it is the accumulation of these little successes that will in large part determine a child’s overall success as they grow up. Big successes in personal relationships, family dynamics, grades, higher education and careers are all connected to the validation a child receives when they are young. They are like confidence blocks that lay a foundation upon which a child can navigate and overcome the challenges of life. The bigger the foundation they have the greater their success will be.


TIP #1: Validations must be 100% true. Children (and adults) know when someone is being genuine or not. If we validate things we want or hope to see, instead of things we are actually seeing, our children know that and stop believing us. For example, if you say to a child “You are so helpful”, but they haven’t been contributing this week, it is not true.

TIP #2: Be specific and detailed in your validations. Saying, “Good job!” is a step in the right direction, but pointing out even the smallest improvement is much more powerful. You need to say why it was good. Give details!

TIP #3: Validate ALL your students/children. Your toughest cases probably need it most, but all your students need consistent, frequent validation to grow into the best version of themselves.

TIP #4: Sometimes we have “nightmare” children who make it very difficult to find the “good” in them. You need to create opportunities to have them be successful and then validate them in a BIG way. Validate things as simple as them cleaning up something or answering a question correctly or showing up to class on-time. It doesn’t matter how small the success is, you need to make a big deal out of it.

TIP #5: Tell other people how well your students/children are doing. Notify parents, other teachers, your principal etc. Public displays of true acknowledgement are a powerful tool. For example, if you are a teacher, your principal walks by and you are with one of your challenging students. You can say to your principal “You know I have to tell you something so great, Jordan came to school on-time today and he looked rested and ready to learn. It was so awesome and I am excited to teach him today.” Make sure you say it in front of the student. Again remember that what you say must be true!

TIP #6: Validate 10 times more than you already do. It may feel like it’s too much, but I assure you it is not. The vast majority of people (adults and children) are highly under-validated. If you increase the validation you give out to others you will notice a markedly different response from the children in your care. Try it and please share with us the results you get.

One final note on this topic…Overall, when you are mean, harsh or discipline with too much force you destroy the previous validations that have been given. You counteract all the good and remove a layer of the child’s confidence blocks you have worked so hard to build. Please consider this the next time you feel you need to blow your top. I am not saying that children shouldn’t have consequences for their actions (they absolutely should), but the way in which it is delivered is a key factor in their overall development of self-worth.

As you can see, validation is an extremely powerful tool in setting kids up for success later in life. I encourage you to implement these 6 tips and note the changes.