Self esteem, which greatly impacts behavior, is a person’s perception of the self in terms of satisfaction and abilities. Self esteem is formed by both the child’s own perception and by the perception of those around the child. Children with high self-esteem typically develop into productive, well-adjusted adults.
Below are some tips to help build your child’s positive self-image:
Allow your child to take risks and to problem solve by working out conflicts or problems without stepping in to rescue. Your child’s confidence will build when he faces challenges and solves issues independently. While you can offer assistance, resist taking over and solving the problem. When your child makes a mistake or does not succeed at something, he should feel supported and safe. Help him process what happened and assess how to be successful in the future. Shift the focus from shame or failure to ways of obtaining control and determining what can be done in the future to obtain success. Praise your child for making the effort to try versus focusing on the failure. Encourage your child to take chances and accept responsibility for the choices. Remember that struggles and failure do not have to crush self esteem. They can actually be a great tool to help build it.
Give your child responsibilities that allow him to showcase his competence. When he contributes around the house, he feels like a valuable and productive member of the family. Set attainable goals, and offer support and praise as he works towards the goal.
Encouraging your children to pursue activities or tasks in which they demonstrate interest can help increase confidence. If your child is genuinely interested in an activity, he is more likely to put forth effort. Support your child in following through and to feel a sense of accomplishment. This will help build confidence.
Praise what your child can control versus what he cannot. Being praised for qualities they cannot control (intellect and athleticism) can lead children to avoid challenges that threaten their reputation. Furthermore, if children are being praised for succeeding at a task when they know they are not, they will learn to mistrust their instincts. Praising them for the effort they put in when they are working hard is something they can control, no matter what the outcome. When praise is specific and earned, it can boost confidence.
Self esteem comes from feeling love and security. They form the foundation from which confidence grows. Communicate that your love is not based on how well your children perform or whether or not they succeed.
Talk Positively About Your Child
Children’s self-image comes not only from how they view themselves, but from how others perceive them. Do you speak to and about your child in a positive manner? Do you make him feel like you enjoy being around him? Do you demonstrate respect for his opinions and feelings? Talk positively about your child to other people and allow your child to hear this positive talk. If your child demonstrates unacceptable behavior, criticize the behavior not the person.
Experiences that lead to a child’s feeling capable, accepted and effective help build self-esteem. To build a positive self-concept, support independence and goal-setting; praise process instead of the product; make a child feel accepted and unconditionally loved.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education.