Building Your Child's Self-Esteem
A Positive Parenting Call to Action
Ten-Point Plan for Building a Child’s Self-Esteem
- Pay attention to your child’s feelings and thoughts. The foundation for healthy self-esteem is the unconditional love and approval a child feels from his parents. As children navigate the rocky road to adulthood, they need large, obvious doses of this kind of love each day. Say it with your words, your actions, and your heart. Every time you listen to your child, you are saying, “What you think is important to me, because you are important.”
- Teach your child how to give self-feedback and put things in perspective. Although it is important that a child learn to handle criticism, it should not damage the child’s self-concept. With your help, children need to learn to put things in perspective. Example: “Yes, I did poorly on the math test, but that doesn’t make me a bad person or stupid. I did well on the history test, and I can learn the math with some help.”
- Praise your child. Give your child honest but specific praise in many different areas. Find things to praise about your child’s weakest points as well as the strong points. Some parents mistakenly believe that it is not wise to praise “expected behavior” such as doing chores well, but kids need to feel good about expected tasks, too. Compliment your child daily using sincere and specific praise. A child creates an image of himself largely through input from others, especially his parents. When you notice something worth praising, use descriptive statements to compliment your child such as, “You sure stuck with that project until it was complete. That takes persistence and stamina!”
- Look for real accomplishments. Although your child should not define herself only in terms of what she can do, accomplishments are a vital measure of growth. Help your child discover her talents and the things she’s good at. Allow her to try various sports, hobbies, and activities. Encourage her to apply herself to those things she enjoys and seems skilled at. Accomplishment builds self-confidence, and self-confidence builds self-esteem.
- Teach your child to acknowledge what is done well. Unfortunately, most people focus easily on their weaknesses but have difficulty recognizing their strengths. Regularly ask your child about what he has done well. Example: “Tell me something you did at preschool today you thought you did well.”
- Give unconditional positive feedback. You love your child because she is your child, and your child should love herself because of her uniqueness. Make sure your child knows your love is predicated on these things and not something that can ever change.
- Being helpful equals being confident. Assign your child household chores. Chores help a child feel like a capable, responsible member of the family. Doing chores promotes a feeling of being trusted, skilled, and important.
- Life’s lessons. Don’t hover, protect, and rescue your child. Let him learn through his trials, struggles, and mistakes. A child’s greatest sense of accomplishment comes through personal effort and personal success.
- Choose your words carefully. You may have heard your parents say, “What is the matter with you?” or “Can’t you ever remember?” and now you repeat it to your child without much thought to the punch behind the words. Find alternatives that more clearly describe your intended meaning.
- Teach positive thinking. Help your child develop a more positive way of looking at life. Gently correct pessimistic statements. When he says, “I can’t do it.” Respond, “Take your time and try again, I have confidence in you.” If he mutters, “I’m so clumsy. I’ll never learn to roller blade.” Say, “It’s tough to learn something new. Remember how much you fell when you first put on skis? Now you’re a better skier than I am!”
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