Self-esteem is the confidence we feel in ourselves and our abilities, and it affects nearly everything we do. While no one-not even parents-can give another person self-esteem, there are a few things parents can do to help children develop healthy confidence in themselves.
1. Compliment how hard they work
Telling your son you're impressed with how hard he practiced for his ball game, rather than complimenting him on winning, will encourage him to work hard at other things, even if he's not immediately successful. And when he eventually loses a game, he'll feel inspired to work harder rather than feeling like a failure.
2. Catch them being good
It's easy to focus on the things we want our kids to change. Children love attention, and whatever we focus on is what they are likely to do more of. As someone once said, water the flowers, not the weeds. If you shower attention on your kids' positive behavior, you'll see more of it. And they'll feel pleased to be noticed for the good things they are doing.
3. Make eye contact when you compliment them
Eye contact is powerful . It increases feelings of love and connection. When you make eye contact while telling your daughter how impressed you are with the way she worked on her science project, you are sending a powerful message that you value her and her strengths.
4. Be a positive self-talk role model
Kids repeat what they hear. If you put yourself down, your kids are likely to think of themselves in negative ways as well. Be kind in your comments about yourself and others. Accept compliments graciously by saying "Thank you!" Your kids will notice and will pick up on the positive feelings of self-worth.
5. Correct negative self-talk
When your son is discouraged about his artwork and says, "I'm no good at drawing," respond with words of encouragement. You don't have to tell him he's a fantastic artist-although if you think so, definitely say it! You can tell him about something you struggled to master that he respects. "You know, I used to think I was no good at fixing cars. But I just kept trying and now I'm pretty good at it!"
6. Give them jobs
Doing useful work helps everyone feel confident. Even young children can sort silverware, match socks, and pick up their toys. Older kids can vacuum, empty the dishwasher, and fold laundry. Working alongside parents lets kids know they are important contributing members of the family.
7. Talk about your feelings and encourage them to do the same
Emotions are healthy. Talk honestly about how you feel-happy, sad, angry, excited or whatever! Kids need help identifying their feelings and knowing how to handle them. That all starts with knowing that feelings themselves are great! Feelings help us know what we want to do. When you're embarrassed about the cookies you brought to the school function, talk about it. When your son is sad that his friends are not available, you should talk about that too. And when you are happy, don't be shy about expressing it!
8. Find out what they want to do and encourage them to do it
Rather than putting your expectations on your daughter, ask her what she would like to do. Does she want to be a butterfly scientist? Spend the summer reading her way through the library? Build a robot? Whatever it is, find ways to encourage her to follow her dreams.
By consciously choosing to do these things, your child will be well on his way to a healthy confidence in himself and his abilities.