We all have a desire to be known, accepted, and loved for who we truly are. We want to be valued ultimately for our personhood, rather than our achievements. Every parent wants their child to feel loved. Parents also want their children to feel capable of facing the world. This sense of capability cannot be developed without healthy self-esteem.
Below are 4 tips for building a child’s self-esteem:
• Help him to see setbacks as temporary rather than a permanent state. This will aid in developing problem solving skills and build frustration tolerance. Normalize the concept of trying and failing (and repeating until success). Remind your child that life is like a game of “Chutes and Ladders”—lots of ups and downs!
• Give praise often, but be genuine and specific. Help your child learn about herself by sharing your observations of her strengths. Let her know that everyone has things they’re good at and not so good at. (And the things we’re not so good at might require extra effort). Remember to give praise for a job well done and the effort she put in (even when the outcome is disappointing, such as losing a game).
• Model healthy self-esteem for your child by nurturing your own. Children mirror a great deal of what they see in their environment. If your children hear you constantly criticizing or being hard on yourself, they are vulnerable to using that same critical voice with themselves.
• Use bedtime as a time to bond and validate. For young children, this is an excellent time to have some quiet reflection with one or both parents. This can be a time to review what happened during the day, as well as give awareness to your child’s feelings and any stress he’s experiencing. The attachment between parent and child is powerful in many ways, but the center of that child’s bonding experience is the ability to express feelings and have her parent validate and give comfort.
Here are some conversation starters, particularly for elementary school-aged kids:
What was your favorite part of your day?
What was the worst part of your day?
Who is your favorite friend at school? What do you like best about him or her?
What do you think your friend likes about you?
Be sure to check back with the blog in the coming weeks as we look at creating a smooth back-to-school season and building motivation in kids.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please call The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004.
Elicia McIntyre, a licensed clinical social worker, and graduate of Smith College School for Social Work, has 15 years’ experience providing counseling to adults, children and families in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. She has helped clients navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties. Elicia helps couples increase emotional intimacy, and foster healthy connections among family members. She has spent the past 3 years traveling nationally and overseas, providing education and intervention to military service members and their families on communication, stress management and building healthy relationships.