I find it so disappointing that I spent most of my life worrying about what others thought. As a child, I loved to read and write stories and poetry, but, always thought that the other kids in school would think I was a nerd. So, instead of enjoying the things I was interested in, I hid them. Thirty years later, just now becoming comfortable in my own skin, I wish I had never thought like that or hid the things I enjoyed. I look back and am so discontented that I didn’t take that time to express myself and know who I was and what I was capable of.
Thankfully, there are children who, at a young age, are comfortable in their own skin. We must show kids that because they are aware of their abilities, they will be able to accomplish so much more for their future. But, sadly, the same children who are comfortable in their skin and know their abilities, will still face criticism. We need to teach children to look past the criticism and embrace who they are. Building a child’s self-esteem will benefit them immensely in the future. Jobs, relationships, and education can all be negatively impacted by low self-esteem.
Here are some helpful tips to positively build a child’s self-esteem:
“ • Be careful what you say. Kids can be sensitive to parents’ and others’ words. Remember to praise your child not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your child doesn’t make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, “Well, next time you’ll work harder and make it.” Instead, try “Well, you didn’t make the team, but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it.” Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.
Sometimes, a child’s skill level is just not there — so helping kids overcome disappointments can really help them learn what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. As adults, it’s OK to say “I can’t carry a tune” or “I couldn’t kick a ball to save my life,” so use warmth and humor to help your kids learn about themselves and to appreciate what makes them unique.
• Be a positive role model. If you’re excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your kids might eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem and they’ll have a great role model.
• Identify and redirect inaccurate beliefs. It’s important for parents to identify kids’ irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept.
Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to kids. For example, a child who does very well in school but struggles with math may say, “I can’t do math. I’m a bad student.” Not only is this a false generalization, it’s also a belief that can set a child up for failure. Encourage kids to see a situation in a more objective way. A helpful response might be: “You are a good student. You do great in school. Math is a subject that you need to spend more time on. We’ll work on it together.”
• Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will help boost your child’s self-esteem. Give hugs and tell kids you’re proud of them when you can see them putting effort toward something or trying something at which they previously failed. Put notes in your child’s lunchbox with messages like “I think you’re terrific!”
Give praise often and honestly, but without overdoing it. Having an inflated sense of self can lead kids and teens to put others down or feel that they’re better than everyone else, which can be socially isolating.
• Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like “You always work yourself up into such a frenzy!” will make kids feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, “I can see you were very angry with your brother, but it was nice that you were able to talk about it instead of yelling or hitting.” This acknowledges a child’s feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time.
• Create a safe, loving home environment. Kids who don’t feel safe or are abused at home are at greatest risk for developing poor self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may feel they have no control over their environment and become helpless or depressed.
Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect kids’ self-esteem. Encourage your kids to talk to you or other trusted adults about solving problems that are too big to solve by themselves.
• Help kids become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both kids. Volunteering and contributing to your local community can have positive effects on self-esteem for everyone involved.
When promoting healthy self-esteem, it’s important to not have too much or too little but “just enough.” Make sure your kids don’t end up feeling that if they’re average or normal at something, it’s the same as not being good or special.”
Tips provided by Kidshealth.org
Thoughts, comments, questions? Email me, JennKaysen@gmail.com
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