Having a child who grows up with healthy self-esteem is not an accident. Research shows that the important grown-ups in their lives have a huge influence on how kids feel about themselves.
- Are they happy?
- Do they have self-compassion?
- Are they empathetic?
- Are they satisfied with their choices?
- Can they shift their moodiness?
The following self-esteem boosters from psychologist and educator Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.seem simple enough. Yet as parents, we have to prioritize our goals to set in motion our personal awareness of children’s states–moods, thoughts, actions and reactions.
- Let your kids know they’re the sun, moon, and stars to you.
To develop self-esteem as children make their way in the world, they need one grown up who loves them unconditionally and models how that love is expressed. Feeling “lovable” is the core of having self-esteem and reflects positive experiences for the child.
As often as you can, tell your kids directly how dear they are to you. Take every chance to hug your children and let them know that you’re proud of them and love them. To develop healthy self-esteem, kids need to know they are treasured and that there is nothing they could ever do to make you stop loving them.
2. Catch them” being successful.
When you give positive, accurate feedback, your child is likely to do more of the same. Look for opportunities to praise your children. Be very specific when praising kids and try to avoid blanket praise. Phrases like the following specify the behavior or action that deserves praise, allowing you to reinforce repeating those actions.
- I’m so proud of how hard you worked on this test.
- You’ve been doing all your homework.
- You studied really hard and you deserve to have gotten this great grade!
The lesson here is that excessive flattery can actually end up making kids feel pressured rather than confident.
3. Criticize carefully.
Discipline, or teaching children how you expect them to behave, is an important part of parenting, However, when applying consequences, be sure they understand that you’re concerned or frustrated about their behavior, not who they are as a person.
Never name-call, berate, belittle or compare one child to another. Let your child know exactly what was unacceptable or inappropriate about her behavior and why you feel that way. Then make sure you tell or show them again what you expect.
4. Accept that your child’s not perfect – and help her do the same.
- While reinforcing your child’s positive traits is key toothier self-worth, it’s also important to help your child cope with their inevitable shortcomings.
- When kids identify things they don’t like about themselves, help them modify those negative thoughts by taking action or resetting their expectations.
- Kids who have body image issues may benefit from regular exercise with their family. They also need to know that they do not need to look like models in magazines.
- Don’t ignore negative comments kids make about themselves. Talk through their feelings with them to help them get on a more positive path.
- If a child says, “I can’t do math. I’m a bad student,” a helpful response might be: “You are a good student. Math is just a subject that you need to spend more time on. We’ll work on it together.”
5. Set clear limits
Kids thrive in an environment where their grown-ups have realistic expectations, clear cut rules, and logical consequences. It is actually quite comforting for children to know that they don’t have to tackle the world all by themselves, and that they have a responsible, in-charge adult by their side.
Don’t ask your kids to be mind readers, communicate directly to let them know what the rules are, why they’re in place, and what consequences they’ll face if the rules are broken.