Children who develop a sense of positive self-esteem value themselves, have confidence in their abilities and strive to do their best. They are more likely to have, in the words of Understood.org, a “growth mindset”— which empowers them to tackle challenges, seek help when needed, be resilient, advocate for themselves, take personal responsibility for their actions, resist peer pressure, and learn from mistakes.
This clearly sounds like a real formula for success — but the question then becomes how to help your child to build self-esteem. To help, we’ve collected strategies from experts.
Let your children know how much you love them. This will provide them with a sense of security and will lay the foundation for relationships yet to come. Showing love can include saying “I love you” but can also be shown through a hug, by spending fun time together, and by talking about the day.
Too much praise can be detrimental. Although well-deserved praise is always worth giving, TodaysParent.com notes that too much praise — heaping it on — isn’t the recommended strategy. That well-intentioned tactic can, instead, lower the bar for your child. After all, if everything they’re doing is already perfect, why should they push beyond that level of ability?
Plus, this can send a message that perfection is the standard, which can prevent a child from trying, failing, then trying again — which is the time-tested formula for gaining competencies. This strategy can backfire in yet another way: If praise is given when it isn’t warranted, the lessons learned may well include that praise equals lying, and that personal instincts about performance can’t be trusted.
Use your child’s name. AskDrSears.com offers up a brilliantly simple strategy: use your child’s name. Benefits of this include how it “opens doors, breaks barriers, and even softens corrective discipline.” If you only use your child’s name when you’re unhappy with their behavior, this can cause your child to associate their name with anger — or as one child puts it, that’s his “mad name.”
Develop the right traits. The Greater Good Science Center lists several traits that, when developed, help children to connect with something bigger than themselves. This facilitates the development of a “quiet ego” that isn’t overly self-focused. Rather, it gives them space to grow and develop in humane ways. Traits that make sense to develop include mindfulness, a sense of flow/immersion in an experience, compassion, elevation (by, for example, observing generosity), and awe and wonder.
Although this may sound counterintuitive, when a child develops these traits, they will likely feel less self-critical and able to live a fuller life with better self-esteem.
Parents also play a “role.” Finally, parents are encouraged to display role model confidence. This doesn’t mean that you should try to deny any anxiety when trying something new. Just put more of the focus on the excitement of trying something new and less on any anxiety you might feel. If you make a mistake, own up to it! Everyone does and, if your child sees you learn from yours, that will help them to navigate their own.
In this post, we’ve given a quick snapshot of the wisdom found in each of the articles we’ve quoted. To get even more ideas, take a look at them in their entirety and consider using the strategies that resonate the most.