One of the best gifts you can give your child is a positive understanding of his own self-worth. This is the armor your child wears as she ventures out into the world and encounters people who will work at tearing down her self-esteem. This is the armor he will wear long after you are gone, well into his adult years.
Having a good self-esteem does not mean your child has an inflated view of herself. It simply means that she knows how to work with her strengths and weaknesses. Children with a good self-esteem often handle conflict better and find it easier to resist negative peer pressure.
On the other hand, kids with low self-esteem get anxious when facing challenges and may even become withdrawn or depressed in the face of obstacles.
Here’s a few ways you can help grow your child’s self-esteem:
- Focus on WHO he is more than what he does. In other words, stress effort and completion instead of the result.
- Give sincere praise. Overdoing praise can give kids an inflated view of themselves and this can cause social isolation. Be honest and specific when you praise your child.
- Give permission for mistakes. The world will not end if your child forgets his homework or breaks a dish. When you as a parent reach perfection, then perhaps you can expect the same from your kids!
- Make your home a safe place. Is your home a haven where your child feels unconditional love? Does he know that he can be himself without judgment? Does she feel like she has to walk on eggshells to keep from making you angry? Providing a home where your child feels loved and protected will build a solid foundation of security for your child.
- Take time to really enjoy your child. Does your child know that he is fun to be with? That his opinions and thoughts matter to you? That his actions make you happy? When your child looks at your reactions and responses, it’s like he’s looking in a mirror and seeing a positive or negative reflection. Positive reflections will raise self-esteem.
- Play with your child. Playtime says to your child: “I love you. I love being with you. You are important.”
- Have a Wall of Fame in your home. I love this idea by Dr. Sears on askdrsears.com:In our Sears’ family gallery of accomplishments, our walls display Hayden’s cheerleading trophies, Erin’s horse ribbons, Matthew’s Little League pictures, etc. Every child is good at something. Discover it, encourage it, frame it and display it. If your home is missing this wall, your child is missing his moment of fame. If you have a child who is not athletic, try scouting. With Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, everyone wins and everyone gets lots of badges. As children walk by their showcase, they can see at a glance five to ten years of achievement. This gives them a lift, especially during times when their self-worth is faltering.
- Stay away from labels. Don’t label your child “the smart one”, “the athletic one” or any other limiting title. Those labels make your child feel as if her worth is based on her accomplishments or lack of.
- Don’t do everything for your child. Be patient and let him work things out for himself. It’s always easier for parents to jump in and fix things or do the chore faster because you are in a hurry. But that communicates that she can’t do it good enough for you and keeps her from learning new skills as she tackles challenges.
- Give choices. Giving your child options and the ability to choose within those options empowers them. If your child learns to make simple choices when he is young, he will do a better job making more difficult choices as he grows.
Yes, teach your kids to exercise, eat healthy, and get good grades. But be intentional about building their self-esteem as well. That gift will help them develop into positive, productive, and pleasurable people.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new booklet 11 Habits for Healthy and Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.