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Bolstering Your Child’s Self Esteem

Most blogs on bolstering your child’s self-esteem focus on praising your child frequently and with specificity; redirecting (not criticizing) your child’s behavior only when truly warranted and only in a calm, constructive manner; frequently speaking about and consistently living your values (including that people are inherently valuable, regardless of their gender, race, weight, etc.);  leading by example; encouraging your child to try new things while also continuing to do things at which he/she excels; ensuring your child’s well-rounded development (academics, athletics, social activities, etc.); exhibiting consistency with him/her; and allowing your child to develop his/her character and personality in the direction in which he/she seems inclined (providing parental guidance only as necessary).   

But there are additional ways to reinforce the message that your child is inherently worthwhile.  Let’s take a look at some of these additional ways.

  • Encourage your child to pre-plan tasks, envisioning the specifics as well as the thrill of the successful outcome. By planning the specifics, your child is more likely to be prepared to respond to any potential set-backs that occur along the way. By envisioning success, your child is more likely to engage the task in a mindset that is consistent with success. Demonstrate your own envisioning process for your child. Ask your child to share his/her envisioning process with you. These can be wonderful sharing sessions.
  • Discourage your child from keeping secrets. A confident person will “put himself/herself out there” (in a situationally appropriate manner), secure in the knowledge that many people will accept him/her as he/she is (with all his/her strengths and weakness), and that some people will not be able to accept him/her for their perceptions of his/her weaknesses (yet he/she will be ok without the acceptance of the latter group of people). To model this for your child, be real with your child. Do you and your spouse fight some times? Sure. Admit it to your child. But also reinforce to your child that disagreements are minor and will not endanger your marriage or your relationship with your child.
  • Get your child involved in volunteerism for a neighbor in need, a worthy non-profit organizations, etc. Your child learns not only the value he/she has to offer, but also the importance of cooperation, compassion, and service to others. (One mother has her grade-school-aged children read each evening to their neighbor lady who is elderly, blind, and lives alone. Another mother has her pre-teen child sort donated items at a local non-profit organization.)
  • When your child fails at a task, recognize the failure and allow the child to grieve the failure, but also reinforce what the child did right during the task and that the child can learn from his/her mistakes and thus use this failure as an opportunity for greater success in the future. (It is important for your child to learn that failure at a task does not result in his/her failure as a person. It’s ok to fail every now and then. Everyone does it, and no one should be de-valued for an honest attempt that didn’t pan out.)
  • Play games that encourage positive perspectives. For example, ask your child to list five things he/she likes about his/her babysitter, three things he/she learned from a recent growth opportunity, two things for which he/she is grateful, etc. Or, have your child write a note of affirmation to a friend or family member who is feeling discouraged. (One mom had her grade-school-aged child write a letter of affirmation to her cousin who had just been arrested for a first-time drug-related offense. The child wrote that she valued her cousin and listed all the cousin’s good traits. Her letter stated that she was worried for her cousin because of the drug usage, and she had faith that he would be able to move past this arrest and find success and happiness.)
  • Ask for your child’s opinion. Does he/she like the message in the movie you just watched? Why or why not?
  • Ask your child to tell you who he/she is . . . not in relationship to someone/something, but in and of him-/herself. For example, you do not want an answer such as, “I am your child” or “I am Bailey’s sibling”. You are looking for answers such as, “I am artistic (or science-oriented or whatever your child likes). I am (whatever his/her faith may be). I believe in standing up for what I believe in (or other statement of his/her values).” Praise your child’s statements (i.e., “Yes, I have always noticed how creative you are. You do a beautiful job on all your finger painting.”).

By taking these steps to foster the healthy development of your child’s self-esteem, you will be nurturing a healthy, happy perspective that can last your child’s life through.

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