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As the mom of an almost 3-year-old boy, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my son’s self-esteem and how I can ensure he grows up into confident and competent young man. If I’m being honest, self-esteem is something that I’ve struggled with a lot, stemming from the fact that I was bullied in school. And while my school years are (thankfully) a distant memory, that low self-esteem still rears it’s ugly head every now and then.
I’m of the firm belief that a child can never have too much self-esteem. It’s so important that children are confident in themselves and their abilities, and as parents, our child’s level of self-esteem is largely our responsibility. Of course, we can’t wrap our kids in cotton wool and protect them entirely from negative outside influences, but the environment we foster for our children at home goes a LONG way in ensuring that they have high self-esteem.
Children are sensitive and often, their peers can be quite harsh, so the type of environment you foster at home matters. It matters a LOT. Children need to have a huge reserve of self-esteem so they can always remind themselves how amazing they are, despite what their peers might tell them.
8 STRATEGIES TO HELP BOOST YOUR CHILD’S SELF ESTEEM
LOVE YOUR CHILD UNCONDITIONALLY
It sounds like a given, right? Of course you love your child unconditionally. But what a child perceives, and how they’re made to feel can often differ drastically from what you intentions are.
If you have a tendency to only show affection to your child when they’re behaving a certain way or achieving a certain result, this can negatively affect their self-esteem and make them feel like they’re not “good enough” or they’re only lovable when they’re being “good.”
If you’re toddler whines or acts out, make sure that they understand that they’re still loved equally as much as when they do something good.
HELP YOUR CHILD SET APPROPRIATE GOALS
There are few things that provide a bigger self-esteem boost than success. Think about how good you feel when you achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself!
Work with your child to set appropriate and achievable goals. Begin with goals that are easy to accomplish so they can get a taste of success and the confidence boost that goes along with it.
This can be as simple as doing a chunky puzzle, or tidying up their room at the end of the day.
The key is to ensure that it’s a challenge or task that is achievable, but not so easy that they don’t feel like it was a challenge at all.
Success and persistence go hand-in-hand, but when you’re only little, it can be easy to give up when things just aren’t working. And it’s especially frustrating when your mind wants to do something, but you’re little body just can’t seem to do it!
Teach your child to be courageous in the face of a challenge. Praise them when they stick it out, even if they don’t succeed entirely. And always make sure you’re setting a good example by showing them what it means to persevere in the face of a challenge.
GIVE YOUR CHILD CHOICES
It can be difficult to have self-esteem when you don’t have any control or say in your life, which is often the case for young children. And this is particularly difficult to deal with when they’re starting to recognize themselves as a separate entity from their parents (not merely an extension) but they’re still not given the chance to make any decisions.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you give your 3-year-old full reign over their life. But by providing simple choices, you’ll boost their self-confidence and their self-esteem.
An example might be giving them two healthy lunch options or letting them decide which socks they’re going to wear today. Little things like this can provide a huge confidence boost and reinforce in their mind that they’re important and that their opinions matter.
DON’T INSIST ON PERFECTION
As adults, we know that perfection is an unrealistic goal for ourselves, so why do we often insist on perfection in our children?
It’s one thing to want to see your child do their best and succeed, but it’s an entirely different ball-game when you’re placing huge expectations of perfection on your child’s shoulders.
This is a game that no-one will win, and your child’s self-esteem will suffer greatly when they realize that it’s impossible to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed upon them.
Instead, show your child that you value their effort and their progress towards achieving a goal, whether they get their or not.
PRAISE YOUR CHILD
As a former behavior therapist, I know the immense importance of praising children for positive behavior and achievements. Not only will praising your child help to reinforce their positive behavior, it also lets them know that you see them and that you’re proud of them, which is incredibly important to children. Try not to let good behavior, a great effort or an accomplishment go without praise.
ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO OVERHEAR YOU COMPLIMENTING THEM
You probably already know this, but your children are always watching you and listening to your conversations. Even if it seems like they’re not paying attention, they usually are. And you can use this to your advantage.
Praise and compliment your child to another adult while your child is nearby, within hearing distance. Children get a big boost to their self-esteem when they hear one of their parents compliment them to another adult.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Children model the behavior of their parents, both good and bad. If they see mom taking care of herself, showing herself respect and treating herself with importance, they’re going to grow up believing (correctly) that that’s how they should treat themselves, because they saw mom doing it.
On the flipside, if you’re constantly putting yourself down, speaking negatively about yourself and not taking care of yourself in general, it’s going to have a similar influence over your children.
Model to your children how to make themselves a priority.
Children with high self-esteem are happier and more confident, and it’s our responsibility as parents to ensure our children think highly of themselves. What we do at home has a huge impact on our children’s future. If you teach your children to love and believe in themselves, they’ll reap the benefits of that throughout their entire lives.