This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Sue Cornbluth.
As parents, we invest thousands upon thousands of dollars on providing our children with the latest video games, toys and computers. This year, why not take steps towards investing time into your child’s emotional development?
In today’s world, with instances of bullying occurring at all ages, healthy emotional development is critical to seeing our children become successful as preschool, elementary, middle school and high school students.
As a parent, I’m guilty of buying my children materialistic items. After all, I’m human and I want to give my children the best things in life. I’ve now realized that the best thing I can give my children is a good sense of self. When the latest video game becomes a fad, my children will still have their self-esteem.
So, as you’re getting your children dressed for school each day and packing up their lunches, let me remind you that you can also pack them some self confidence. How can a parent help to foster healthy self-esteem in a child? Here are some great tips to begin your journey to healthy self-esteem.
These tips can make a big difference.
1. Be careful what you say. Kids can be sensitive to what you say. Remember to praise your child not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be honest. For example, if your child doesn’t make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, “Well, next time you will work harder and make it.” Instead, try “You didn’t make the team, but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it.” Reward effort and completion, instead of the outcome.
Sometimes a child’s skill level is just not there. Helping kids overcome disappointments can help them learn what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. As adults, it’s okay to say “I can’t carry a tune” or “I couldn’t kick a ball to save my life.” Use warmth and humor to help your kids learn about themselves and to appreciate what makes them unique.
2. Be a positive role model. If you’re excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your kids might eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem and they will have a great role model.
3. Identify and redirect inaccurate beliefs. It’s important for parents to identify a child’s irrational beliefs, whether they have beliefs about perfection, attractiveness, ability or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-image.
Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality for children. For example, a child who does very well in school, but struggles with math may say, “I can’t do math. I’m a bad student.” Not only is this a false generalization, it’s also a belief that can set a child up for failure. Encourage your kids to see a situation in a more objective way. A helpful response might be, “You’re a good student. You do great in school. Math is a subject that you need to spend more time on. We’ll work on it together.”
4. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will help boost your child’s self-esteem. Give hugs and tell your kids you’re proud of them when you can see that they’re putting effort toward something or trying something at which they previously failed. Put notes in your child’s lunchbox with messages like, “I think you’re terrific.”
Give praise often and honestly, but without overdoing it. Having an inflated sense of self can lead kids and teens to put others down or feel that they’re better than everyone else, which can be socially isolating.
5. Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like, “You always work yourself up into such a frenzy,” will make your kids feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, “I can see you were very angry with your brother, but it was nice that you were able to talk about it instead of yelling or hitting.” This acknowledges a child’s feelings, rewards the choice made and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time.
6. Create a safe, loving home environment. Kids who don’t feel safe or are abused at home are at the greatest risk for developing poor self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may feel they have no control over their environment. They may become helpless or depressed.
Also, watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers and other factors that may affect a child’s self-esteem. Encourage your kids to talk to you or other trusted adults about solving problems that are too big to solve by themselves.
7. Help kids become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger child learn to read, can do wonders for both kids. Volunteering and contributing to your local community can have positive effects on self-esteem for everyone involved.
Please remember that self-esteem is a child’s greatest defense against the challenges of the world. It’s our responsibility as parents to raise our children “up” to all that they can be.
More related confidence advice from YourTango:
- 3 Simple Steps To Improve Your Self-Confidence
- Do You Practice Enmeshed Parenting?
- Why Persistent Parenting Pays Off