As parents, you play an important role in shaping the way your child sees the world. Yes, you invest in their education, their physical well-being, and their material needs. But, why not make a significant investment into their emotional development by helping them cultivate positive self-esteem?
Self-esteem is what helps us feel content with ourselves, like ourselves and even take pride in activities we partake in every day. It gives us the confidence we need to try new activities and stick to them even if we mess up. It makes us feel valued and loved, as well as equips us to seek out and develop new relationships. Self-esteem gives us the confidence to accept who we are, even with whatever weaknesses or limitations that might include, understanding that it’s both our strengths and weaknesses that make us unique.
A severe lack of self-confidence can result in depression, isolation, loss of friendships and increase of anxiety. So how does this translate to how we relate to our children? How can we develop the essential ingredient of self-confidence in our children, particularly those who struggle with anxiety and anxiety-related disorders, and especially in today’s world, that’s got growing opportunities for eroding their self-confidence, including dealing with bullying at school. The best gift you could give to your child could be a good sense of self. Here are some great tips to begin investing in your child’s emotional development and healthy self-esteem.
Be a positive role model
If you’re overly critical of yourself, pessimistic or unrealistic about your abilities, your kids might eventually start to imitate you. Foster your own self-esteem and they will have a great role model. Also, there’s a lot to be said for having a positive outlook. It should go without saying not to talk negatively or sarcastically to or about your child, as that can only tear him down and hinder his self-confidence.
Create a safe and accepting home environment
It’s important to learn to accept your children for who they are not to try to make them someone or something they aren’t. Doing that can only lead to frustrated parents and miserable children who feel as though they can never live up to their parents’ expectations. Show your children that they are loved just as they are. This means not comparing them to others, including other siblings or classmates.
Furthermore, kids who don’t feel safe at home are at greater risk for poor self-confidence. Being around parents who continually argue may make the child feel like he has no control over his environment. The child may even start to feel helpless or depressed. Look out for signs of problems in school, trouble with friends or classmates and other factors that might impact your child’s self-confidence. Encourage your child to come and talk to you if any of these issues arise.
Enjoy your time together, be affectionate and give praise
Your time with your child makes a difference. So will showing him affection. Play, give hugs, and tell your kids you’re proud of them when you can see they are really putting effort towards something that may be a struggle for them. Leave them notes with positive feedback to boost their self-confidence. Try paying your children a different compliment each day about something they have done or a character trait you want to encourage, or even about something as simple as their wardrobe choice. Such an easy thing to do, requiring minimal effort, but so effective at improving self-confidence.
Identify and redirect inaccurate beliefs
Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality for children. It’s important for parents to help identify a child’s irrational beliefs, and set more accurate standards for him. This includes putting things into more realistic, objective ways so kids can have a healthier self-image, and, in turn, higher self-confidence.
Teach life skills
Kids are never too young to learn practical life skills. If your child can learn to put himself out there, ask for help, and brush off making mistakes, he will have a pretty strong framework for the emotional skills he’ll need for the rest of his life. Teaching things like dressing, washing, healthy eating habits and physical activity, as well as chores, helps the child feel included in the family. Also, giving your children the ability to make choices gives them the confidence they need to make bigger choices outside of the home. It helps the child to feel a sense of control, which may translate into other areas of his life where he might otherwise feel powerless or fearful.
Allowing your child to make choices goes along with allowing for him to be able to take risks. It’s easy to overprotect your kids, but taking risks is what makes us human. This can include making new friendships, signing up for volunteer programs, getting dirty, or trying a new activity.
As parents, there’s no manual for “getting it right” 100 percent of the time. If you’re moving forward with your best intentions for your child, then you can be confident you are moving in the right direction. You may be amazed at how your children will surprise you if you invest into their emotional development by helping them build up their self-confidence.
Goleniowski, H., (2014). “The importance of developing confidence and self-esteem in children with a learning disability.” Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 8 (3), 188-191.
Also, various research by Dr. Sue Cornbluth.