It is no secret that a healthy self-esteem is an essential tool for navigating life. However, figuring out how to instil confidence in a child is not always easy. These ten secrets to building your child’s self-esteem are surprisingly simple and can make a world of difference in the way he or she sees herself and handles everyday situations.
No matter where you are from or what you have been through, self-esteem is not set in stone because it can always be strengthened and increased. Life and various situations can deplete it but it is always possible to build it back up.
What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem involves having self-worth which helps you bounce back from challenges. What can kill self-esteem includes negative thoughts, comparing yourself to others (or being compared) and the influence of media if consumed in a negative way.
Children have vulnerable self-esteem and rely heavily on parents and their primary caregivers to help them develop. Babies and toddlers need to have their needs met and are learning about themselves and the world from interacting with loving parents and caregivers.
In the case of young children, their self-esteem is heavily influenced by parental attitudes and behaviour. This includes how their parents internalize success and failure. As they grow they are increasingly affected by the external influence which plays more of a part. Spending time building them up makes a huge difference later as they navigate the teenage years, puberty and societal pressures that dictate how girls should look or how boys should behave.
Be Generous With Your Affection
In order to feel secure and confident, your child needs to know that she has your unconditional love and support. Build that all-important support system through affirmations of your affection. Be clear that your love is not contingent upon her success nor change as a result of a failure. Physiologically children need to feel loved, appreciated, acknowledges and have their achievements recognized.
Praise Efforts, Not Accomplishments
When you lavish effusive praise on your child for her accomplishments but ignore the effort she expends to get there, you’re sending the message that the end result is the only thing that matters. Making the effort to show her how proud you are because your child tried their best places the emphasis where it needs to be; on the effort.
A growth mindset is very important when it comes to raising a child with a can-do attitude. How you perceive yourself and how you feel about yourself is closely tied to your mindset. Research suggests that self-esteem can be formed as early as 5 years old. So do not lie to your child, but encourage them to work on putting their best foot forward, and learning from their results.
It seems simple, but taking the time to listen to your child when she speaks lets her know that you are truly invested in her life. Keep your communication lines open and when your child wants to talk, talk with them. Note when they are most chatty and try to be there for them then. Knowing that you value her opinion and are there to support her makes it easier for your child to approach new situations with confidence. Parents need to pay attention to their words and actions. A lack of awareness can cause parents to make some mistakes that can turn their children into anxious, depressed, aggressive children with ruined self-esteem.
Support Healthy Risks
Every instinct a parent has goes against allowing a child to do something that you believe will surely end in failure. However, it is important that you allow your child to make certain decisions on her own and support healthy risks. Knowing that you are there to help him or her get back up and try again gives your child strong self-esteem. This will enable your child to continue taking those risks, which are essential parts of growing up.
When it comes to a child’s self-esteem parents who display the authoritarian or helicopter parenting styles tend to stifle their child’s ability to learn how to make their own choices and develop independence. [Read: Parenting Through your Blindspots]. The authoritarian parent tends to be overly controlling and makes all decisions for the child; while the helicopter parent hovers constantly thereby causing an unhealthy reliance on the parents.
Instil a Respect for Limits and Boundaries
Part of a strong sense of self-esteem is a feeling of security and support. This comes from having a clear understanding of the boundaries and limits. When your child knows what is and is not expected of him or her, they are more able to confidently navigate acceptable situations. For toddlers, rather than refer to the stage as the terrible two’s decide that you will see it as a time of learning and growth. You can help your child build up the mechanisms for emotional intelligence needed; by encouraging him to use his words rather than throw tantrums.
Let Her Make Mistakes
Failure may not seem like an effective tool for helping your child to build self-esteem, but it is actually quite important. This will help your child to build a pool of experiences that he or she can rely on for future decisions. Mistakes breed wisdom, and that knowledge allows your child to be confident when faced with a similar situation in the future.
Your child’s school environment plays a big part in how open your child will be to learning and trying new things. The teacher’s attitude to competition and acceptance of diversity when it comes to varying ability is critical in developing a child’s self-esteem. [Read: After School Questions Parents Need to Ask]
Comparing children to their siblings or to those within their peer group does not help build healthy self-esteem. Your child needs to know that she’s accepted and loved for who she is, not because she’s out-performing another child. Too much criticism kills a child’s sense of self-worth. While you are trying to push your child to try more and do better, do not dismiss their efforts nor downplay what they have achieved. Even when there is room for improvement, you must encourage help them see how they can do better.
Set Goals Together
When a goal is set and subsequently reached, there’s a sense of accomplishment that does more for a person’s self-esteem than any kind words or flattery ever could. The same holds true for children. Helping your child set new goals and supporting her as she reaches them is a powerful confidence booster. Let your child know that there is nothing like a stupid goal or a stupid question. Rather help your child explore and explain why a particular goal is important to him or her.
Build your child’s sense of self-worth in themselves. Change the narrative and do not let a girl feel that she is incomplete without a man in her life, nor make a boy feel that he is doing a girl a favour by being in her life. We need to raise boys and girls who respect each other; who understand that they each have a role to play in the world and are here to make an impact.
Validate Their Feelings
Failure, mistakes and conflicts are integral experiences when it comes to building up knowledge and learning. These lessons can be hurtful or painful but always carry a lesson. Telling your child that she shouldn’t be upset because she “only lost a game” or “had a tiny fight with a friend” minimizes her feelings. This can leave her confused or stifle the critical need to develop emotional intelligence. Remember no emotion in itself is bad; it is your attitude and action that matters.
Validating feelings by acknowledging that you are aware of how she feels. Let your child know that it is okay to feel that way; what matters is what she does with the feeling. Secondly, help your child learn from the situation so they can handle similar situations in the future.
Your child needs to know that you trust him or her. Listen to them and then help them explore solutions to the situation and to feel better.
Model Confident Behavior
Your child learns from watching and emulating the adults she loves and trusts. As a parent if you are plagued by low self-esteem yourself or are not confident; then your child is likely to copy that behaviour. In order to boost your child’s self-esteem, make sure that you are working on your own.
Teenagers sense of self-esteem is affected by physical and hormonal changes. Because self-esteem is a mix of both self-confidence and self-acceptance; we need to help teenagers navigate the changes as part of their emotional health.
When it comes to the home setting, children learn a lot from how their parents treat each other. If there is lots of conflict or spousal abuse; children tend to blame themselves and this certainly kills a child’s self-esteem.
Some Signs Parents Should Look out for
- A child shows the sign of always trying to please others
- Has a general feeling of not liking themselves
- Being overly critical with words like “I can never do anything right” etc.
- Increased moodiness or constantly seeking validation
- Needing to prove something or having an unhealthy streak for competition.
Helping your child have healthy self-esteem is achievable!