Self-esteem can be defined as confidence and satisfaction in oneself. Good self-esteem is the key to success as an adult. It plays a role in overall wellbeing and social happiness. Good self-esteem is not in our genetic makeup. Rather, it is acquired from what a child perceives about herself and from how she thinks others perceive her. It is composed of self-confidence and self-worth.
Self-confidence is a belief in one’s powers and abilities to accomplish things. It helps us feel ready to take on the things that life throws our way. “When we’re confident, we’re more likely to move forward with people and opportunities…And if things don’t work out at first, confidence helps us try again” (KidsHealth.org).
Self-worth is a sense of one’s value as a human being. It occurs on a spectrum, such as the valuation of gemstones. Some people may only feel as valuable as an imperfect quartz crystal; others may feel as valuable as a flawless diamond. Parents are the main source of a child’s sense of self-worth.
If you see an ability or a quality in your child he may not see in himself, point it out and encourage your child to explore it. This will accomplish two things: your child may develop a new hobby at which to excel and gain self-confidence, and he will notice you noticed that in him and feel worthwhile and proud.
Children tend to develop a lot of different interests that vary over time. Encourage your child to pursue healthy interests as they arise. Provide the supplies needed such as paper, brushes, and paint for your budding artist. Since hobbies can be expensive and interest may not last long, consider purchasing lower-end, inexpensive supplies until you find out if your child will stick with it. Better yet, ask another parent to borrow something or swap supplies your children are no longer using.
If your daughter wants to do too many things at one time, create a child bucket list. Cut a bucket shape out of a piece of paper and write in it the things she can try at another time. This shows that you are taking what she has to say seriously and that you won’t forget it.
Ask your child for fridge art, a clay masterpiece, or a demonstration of talent or skills. Have a “teaching experience,” where your son or daughter can show you how to kick a soccer ball or do Irish step dancing. It will increase their self-worth when you take the initiative to ask versus the obligatory accepting of the new craft project or attending a sports game. Finally, create a wall of fame. This is a great way for a child to be reminded of things they have accomplished, thereby increasing their self-esteem.
Play with your children
Set aside a play date of uninterrupted time you can have with your child. This gives the message, “You’re worth my time,” and “You’re a valuable person.” Allowing your child to choose what you will do together can increase their self-worth. He will feel special as he gets the message you like to do the same things he does.
Children need jobs/chores to help them learn what achievement feels like and to develop a sense of responsibility. When providing said chores, keep your expectations realistic and age-appropriate; a three-year-old can pick up toys but may not be ready to do laundry or make the family’s dinner. For young children especially, calling a job “special” is more likely to ensure it will get done. Demonstrate how you want something done and don’t get upset if it is not done perfectly. Allow your child to try, even if it means allowing them to fail a time or two. A feeling of self-confidence can be stronger if it is earned after falling and getting back up again. Praise not just accomplishments, but also attitude and effort.
Praise your child genuinely and do not overpraise. Let’s say your son, Joe, played a trumpet solo in the spring band concert and he made several mistakes. Be honest with him. For example, “Joe, I’m proud that you had the bravery to get up there and play that solo. I know I’ve heard you play it perfectly before and can tell you must be disappointed in yourself tonight. That’s okay. I’m proud you kept going even when you made a mistake!” Notice the “negative” was in the middle of two positives. This is a praise sandwich, a concept that works well in situations such as these, as well as in having to discipline a child. The first and last things he hears are positive and, like two pieces of bread, they have something in the middle – the negative.
Change the landscape of your language
Language is more powerful than you may think. Words should build a person’s self-confidence and worth, not tear it down. “But” can be a tear-down word, such as in the following sentence. “I love you, but you still need to clean your room.” Linking these two thoughts together suggests a condition to that love, such as having to clean the room to keep the love. Avoid the “buts.”
Other phrases to avoid, specifically during discipline are “bad” or “not good,” such as in the following sentences. “Joe, you’re being a bad boy right now.” Or, “Mary, you’re not being a very good girl.” These suggest the child himself is bad when what you’re really disapproving of is the behavior.
“I feel” statements are those you want to include in your language. To say, “You make me so mad sometimes,” is blaming the child when, in reality, we choose to be mad. Saying “I feel frustrated when…” is taking responsibility for your feelings. This sets a good example for your child and taking responsibility can lead to an increase in self-confidence.
As a family, make it a habit to make others a priority. When children see their efforts helping another person, their sense of self-importance and worth can be greatly increased. Have your child help decorate and deliver cookies to give to an elderly neighbor. Have them save their spare change to help contribute to the family sponsorship of a child in need. Keep a family garden that your children can help plant, water, and harvest, then give away some of the vegetables. In each of these cases, your child can see their hard work helping others which can not only increase their self-worth but also is a great life lesson in general.
Good Role Modeling
The number one tip for parents is to set the right example. Begin by addressing your insecurities. Remember your own childhood and how you were raised; keep the best and discard the rest! Be a good role model of appropriate self-confidence. Allow your child to see you do something well and hear you express self-pride. For example, “Look at this beautiful cake I made. I’m so proud of the way it turned out.” Let them see your sense of self-worth by taking care of yourself such as through proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
In summary, help your children feel like diamonds and watch their self-esteem blossom as they grow into successful adults.
AskDrSears. (n.d.). 12 ways to raise a confident child. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/child-rearing-and-development/12-ways-help-your-child-build-self-confidence/
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. (n.d.). Building your child’s self-esteem. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://www.chp.edu/for-parents/health-tools/parent-resources/parenting-tips/building-your-childs-self-esteem
Lyness, D., PHD (Ed.). (n.d.). Your child’s self-esteem. Nemours KidsHealth. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html