Our self-esteem affects just about every aspect of our lives, from how we relate to other people to the way we handle stressful situations. Healthy self-esteem means having confidence in our own abilities and a strong sense of self-worth, while poor self-esteem usually means low confidence and lack of self-respect.
Positive self-esteem is essential for a healthy, happy and productive life and as parents, helping our children develop healthy self-esteem is one of the best things we can do to set them up for the future.
Why Is Healthy Self-Esteem So Important?
Self-esteem is your child's best defence against the challenges and setbacks that they will naturally have to deal with as they grow up. Children (and adults) who have healthy self-esteem are generally more confident, happier, cope better with stress and experience lower levels of anxiety and frustration than those with low self-esteem.
Building healthy self-esteem starts in infancy and by the time a person reaches adulthood, their ways of thinking about themselves are often deeply ingrained and difficult to change.
Here are ten simple things you can do to help build your child's self-esteem.
Self Esteem Builder #1: Praise your child for effort and completion of tasks, not just for the outcome
Even if they don't succeed at something, you can still tell them you are proud of how hard they worked and how much they've improved.
Self Esteem Builder #2: Give your child responsibilities
Successfully completing tasks gives children a sense of achievement. Letting them do things for themselves also shows them that you trust in their capabilities.
Self Esteem Builder #3: Be a good role model
Avoid being overly self-critical or indulging in self-destructive behaviour in front of your children.
Self Esteem Builder #4: Give your child plenty of love and affection
Letting them know they are safe and loved is one of the best ways you can build up a child's self-esteem.
Self Esteem Builder #5: Let them make decisions
Allowing your child to make their own choices (where appropriate!) shows that you trust their judgement and gives them a sense of control over their environment.
Self Esteem Builder #6: Spend time with your child
Carving out time to spend together shows your child you think they are a worthwhile person who is fun to be around.
Self Esteem Builder #7: Focus on the positive in their behaviour
… rather than emphasising what they didn't do well. For example, instead of criticising your child for screaming at their sibling, you could try praising them for using their words to communicate rather than hitting, before working on the issue at hand.
Self Esteem Builder #8: Let Your Child Lead The Play
When you play with your child, let them initiate and direct the game instead of always jumping in and taking over. This shows them that you think their ideas are valuable and interesting (even if in reality the tenth rendition of ‘The Cat in the Hat’ has you bored out of your mind).
Self Esteem Builder #9: Create A Wall Of Fame
It’s a great idea to have a wall of fame or another place for your child to display their successes and achievements. This can be a great confidence booster and an injection of positive reinforcement if they are feeling a bit low.
Self Esteem Builder #10: Be Specific In Your Praise
Rather than just saying ‘well done', hone in on what it was they did well and why that was good. Rather than saying, ‘I am so proud of you!’ all of the time, try saying, ‘You should be so proud of yourself!’ as this will teach them to approve of themselves rather than seek it from others. Of course, its okay to tell your children you are proud of them, but making it more of a habit to say the latter can really support healthy self esteem.
Healthy self-esteem isn't built in a day, or a year, it's an ongoing process of feeling capable, confident and achieving goals. By giving your child a safe and secure foundation and letting them take risks and learn for themselves you can help set them on the path to a future as a confident, happy adult.