Helping your Child to feel good about themselves
Every child is different. Self-esteem may seem naturally stronger in some children than in others. Some children will face challenges that can lower their self-esteem. Nevertheless, there is always the potential to build your child’s self-esteem.
Here are a few suggestions as to what parents can do to help boost their child’s self-esteem:
Help your child to learn to do things. At every age, there are new things for children to learn. Even during the infant years, learning to hold a cup or take first steps sparks a sense of mastery and delight. As your child grows, things like learning to dress, read, or ride a bike are chances for self-esteem to grow.
When teaching children how to do things, show and help them at first. Then let them do what they can, even if they make mistakes. Be sure your child gets a chance to learn, try, and feel proud. Try not to make new challenges too easy — or too hard.
Praise your child, but do so wisely. Of course, it’s good to praise children. Your praise is a way to show that you’re proud. But some ways of praising children can actually backfire.
Here are some helpful tips on praising your child:
- Try not to overpraise. Praise that doesn’t feel earned doesn’t ring true. For example, telling a child he played a great game when he knows he didn’t can feel ‘fake’ and insincere. It’s better to say, “I know that wasn’t your best game, but we all have off days. I’m proud of you for not giving up.” Add a vote of confidence: “Tomorrow, you’ll be back on your game.”
- Praise effort. Avoid focusing praise only on results (such as getting an A) or fixed qualities (such as being smart or athletic).Instead, offer most of your praise for effort, progress, and attitude. For example: “You’re working hard on that project,” “You’re getting better and better at these spelling tests,” or, “I’m proud of you for practicing piano — you’ve really stuck with it.” With this kind of praise, children put effort into things, work toward goals, and try. When children do that, they’re more likely to succeed.
- Be a good role model. When you put effort into everyday tasks (like raking the leaves, making a meal, cleaning up the dishes, or washing the car), you’re setting a good example. Your child learns to put effort into doing homework, cleaning up toys, or making the bed.
- Modeling the right attitude counts too. When you do tasks cheerfully (or at least without grumbling or complaining), you teach your child to do the same. When you avoid rushing through chores and take pride in a job well done, you teach your child to do that too.
- Harsh criticism is unhelpful. The messages children hear about themselves from others easily translate into how they feel about themselves. Harsh words (“You’re so lazy!”) are harmful, not motivating. When children hear negative messages about themselves, it harms their self-esteem. Correct children with patience. Focus on what you want them to do next time. When needed, show them how.
- Focus on strengths. Pay attention to what your child does well and enjoys. Make sure your child has chances to develop these strengths. Focus more on strengths than weaknesses if you want to help kids feel good about themselves. This improves behaviour too.
- Let children help and give. Self-esteem grows when kids get to see that what they do matters to others. Children can help out at home, do a service project at school, or do a favour for a sibling. Helping and kind acts build self-esteem and other good feelings.
(Adapted from D’Arcy Lyness, PhD, KidsHealth.org).