The self-portrait that a child paints of herself from a young age can have a significant impact on mental health and social happiness later in life. A healthy self-esteem is also necessary for setting up a child to have the skills to foster successful relationships in adulthood. The bottom line is that how you feel about yourself significantly impacts how you act. Many times, behavioral issues can be directly related to low self-esteem (we’ve all heard the story of how the playground bully is really the most insecure kid at school). Here are some parenting tips that can be applied at any age to help set your child up to enjoy all of the benefits that come with a good self-esteem.
Give Genuine Praise and Encourage Natural Talents
We are constantly reminded by kids’ honesty that they pick up on more than we realize. In the same vein, they are able to detect when praise is being given genuinely, as well as when it’s not. It’s not the frequency of praise that you should think twice about, but the way that you word it. A good way to ensure that you’re truly making your child feel the impact of your compliments is to make them specific. Not every child need to hear that they are “the best in the world”— simply pointing out you loved the amount of detail that they put into a drawing could be even more impactful.
It is also important to try not compare your children’s talents, but instead to focus on the natural talents of each child. This can be especially important in situations where two or more of your children participate in the same activity. Identify natural talents in each of your children and make it a point out their success in those areas.
There are times when parenting is not only an opportunity to set our kids up for success, but to also focus on a bit of self-improvement. So much of a child’s behavior growing up, and even in adulthood (we all have those moments when we feel like we are turning into our own parents), is modeled after your behavior. In supporting your child, you may discover aspects of your own mental health that are in need of attention. If past issues affect your ability to demonstrate a healthy self-confidence, it’s a good opportunity to confront them.
Whether or not we like to admit our faults, our imperfections can also be a great learning tool for our kids. Ensure that your child understands the reality that nobody is perfect, and that they aren’t expected to be. React to your child’s mistakes and disappointments as an opportunity to take away a lesson and apply it going forward.
Spend Time Playing One-on-One
Blocking out time each week where your child is your main focus is necessary for building a sense of self-worth. Whether it’s playing with blocks or a one-on-one lunch date, each parent dedicating a focused amount of time to spend with your child shows her how important she is to you. Take this precious time together to show your genuine interest for what is on her mind.
Empower Through Responsibility
A huge portion of positive self-image can stem from how successful your child feels after accomplishing a task. Be careful not to automatically jump to your child’s aid at every turn—have patience and allow for time for your child to attempt to solve age-appropriate challenges.
Giving children responsibility for everyday tasks is also a great way to help them feel successful. There are countless everyday tasks that would be much easier and less time consuming if you were to do them, but it is best to pre-select some tasks that your child can choose from to accomplish on her own. This responsibility could be as simple as picking out clothes for the day. Like adults, the more children are faced with and succeed at new challenges, the more competent and self-assured they will feel.
Help Your Child Identify the Difference Between Expressing and Controlling Behavior
Emotions are at the core of self-identify. Although a child’s emotion may at times seem over the top or silly, make sure to avoid using sarcasm or unintentionally belittling your child’s feelings. Help your child know the difference between controlling behavior that might be a result of an emotional response and expressing the emotion itself in a healthy way. If you are angry in the situation, lead by example and don’t let your emotions get the best of your behavior! Take a short break so you don’t say something you’ll regret later on.
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