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15 ways to boost your child's self-esteem

Rupal Patel
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February 15, 2007

Self-esteem refers to how we feel about ourselves -- our value and worth in our own opinion. The higher our self-esteem, the more confident we are. The same holds true for children. Those with higher self-esteem are happier, more co-operative and open to new things, more secure and loving than those with low self-esteem.

What causes low self-esteem?

It stems from low self-confidence, insecurity, underachievement, anxiety and depression, and can result in attention seeking behaviour. More often than not, these children end up as loners.

Ways to boost your child's self-esteem

~ Show your love

Let your children know you love them for who they are, not for what they do. Let them know they are special. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Give them lots of hugs and say 'I love you' often. Tell them you are proud of them, and value them unconditionally. Accepting a child regardless of his or her strengths and weaknesses is a very important part of expressing unconditional love.

~ Spend time with them

Although it may not be possible to spend a lot of time each day, it is necessary to spend a minimum of 20 minutes daily, with each child, individually. Keep in mind though, that your child should have your undivided attention during these 20 minutes. Do something you both enjoy. 

~ Be a positive role model

A child's behaviour mirrors a parent's. So, the more positive the parents' self-esteem, the more positive the child's too. If you are harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your child may eventually mirror your expectations. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your child will have a great role model.

~ Encourage your child

Honest encouragement is the quickest way to build a person's self-esteem. Find some way to encourage your child every day. Make sure it is realistic and honest. Whenever possible, encourage your children to try something new, even if they are not successful at it. If need be, give them a task you know can be completed just so you can encourage them. Focus on the positive aspects of your child's behavior. Even if you don't like some of the behavior, find something positive to focus on.

~ Listen to your child

When your child shares something with you, give your undivided attention and listen carefully. It may be childish stuff to you, but it is very important to your child. Don't offer advice unless it is asked for or if you feel your child's safety is involved. Don't ridicule or shame your children.

~ Show them they are important

Show your children what they do is important to you. Talk about their day's activities, interests, and schoolwork. Get to know their friends. Attend their sports days, parent's day at school, annual days or any other events they may be part of. Be available to support them always.

~ Give positive, accurate feedback

A comment such as, 'You always scream while talking!' will cause a child to start believing he or she doesn't know how to speak politely. Instead, try something like 'You were really angry, but I appreciate that you didn't hit anyone.' This acknowledges your child's feelings and rewards the choices made, encouraging him or her to make the right choice again the next time.

~ Create a safe, nurturing home environment

A child who does not feel safe at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. Always remember to respect your child and provide a happy environment.

~ Allow your child to help

Activities that encourage co-operation rather than competition are especially helpful in boosting self-esteem. For example, allowing your older child to help with a newborn baby or allowing your child to help you with simple household tasks will work wonders for the self-esteem.

~ Encourage spending time with other children

Invite children over and let your child decide what you should cook for them or the toys to be removed for sharing, etc. Look for activities with peers where your child can feel success and acceptance, such as participating in a sport or joining a class. Choose an activity that is appropriate for your child's age. Let it be a fun time. These things will also teach your child basic social skills such as listening, taking turns while speaking, respect, co-operation and ways to make and maintain friendship.

~ Appreciate your child's uniqueness

Don't compare your child with siblings or even with any other child. All children are unique and have their own set of special abilities. Find your child's strength and encourage him or her to build on that.

~ Let your child try

Even if your children have difficulty with a new task or skill, don't quickly take over and show them how to do it. Be patient and let them try. If need be, you can break up a difficult task. Simple steps help children see progress when learning a complex skill. Don't embarrass your children by asking them to do difficult tasks in front of other people. When your children are learning new skills that take practice, such as riding a bicycle, don't expect perfection the first time. Encourage them to practice and talk about their improvement with each practice session.

~ Use language that builds self-esteem

Speak to children with phrases that build self-esteem, such as, 'Thank you for helping,' or 'That was an excellent idea.' Avoid using negative phrases that decrease self-esteem such as 'How many times have I told you?' or 'Why are you so stupid?'

~ Encourage your child to be a thinker

Encourage children to be creative by exploring ideas with them that are fun and interesting. Take them for field trips to places of their interest. Take part in their excitement about what they see and enjoy.

~ Have realistic expectations and goals for your child

When parents expect their children to do more than their age and level of maturity permits, they are disappointed again and again, thus sending a message to their children to be disappointed in themselves. Having realistic expectations provides children with a sense of control over their lives. This goes hand-in-hand with self-esteem, which increases as they achieve success when realistic and achievable goals are completed.

To conclude, although building self-esteem is a lifelong process, the foundation of self-esteem is established in childhood. This foundation will make a child face any hurdle in life with courage and confidence.

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