My husband and I took our two-year-old twin boys and four-year-old daughter on vacation to two National parks in Colorado with friends this past week. We drove from the Dallas, TX area and during the day long journey. I realized I was saying “stop that”, “no”, and “don’t touch that” all day long. By the time we arrived at the first National Park, I was feeling like a crummy parent who only had negative responses for my kids that entire day. Having a PhD in psychology, I knew I could do a whole lot better. I needed to return to my tried and true methods of building up my children. Doing so, not only will help my children to not feel defeated, but also will help them to build positive self worth.
Many parents often feel bad for having to say “no” to their children all day long. You can begin to feel like your negative responses are making your child feel defeated. No good parent wants their child to feel defeated or grow up with low self esteem. We, as parents, can help our children to develop positive self esteem starting from the moment they are born. Below are my top 7 tips for building up your child, so they can develop positive self esteem and self worth.
1. Provide Positive Feedback That Is Legitimate
Children need positive affirmations. These affirmations need to be legitimate. Sometimes, parents have a tendency to praise their children with affirmations that aren’t legitimate. Making generalized statements such as “you are the most beautiful girl in the world” or “you are the smartest kid in the world” are not legitimate.
Kids are smart. Eventually your child will realize there are more beautiful and smarter kids in the world, or even right next door. When you say these sort of generalized statements, although well meaning, they become nebulous and make you out to be a liar. Kids need affirmations that are personalized to them and aren’t exaggerations or flat out lies.
2. Criticize The Behavior, Not the Child
“You are a bad kid” is a terrible thing to say to any child. You may feel that they are acting like a bad kid because of their behavior, but they themselves are not “bad”. Telling them they are bad is like putting a stamp on them as a person that cannot be changed. Behavior can be changed though. Which is why parents need to focus on words and criticisms that are aimed at a specific behavior rather than the child.
Be specific about what behavior needs changing and talk about it immediately when it happens, not hours later. But again, be sure your message is that the behavior is undesirable and not them as a person.
3. Give Them Chores and Responsibilities
Children will feel good about themselves when they are able to complete chores and tasks. Feeling that they have responsibilities they can accomplish helps them gain positive self esteem. They find that they are worth something to the people around them when they can help. Don’t rob your children of this opportunity to build positive self worth by doing everything for them.
Small children can start taking out garbage, putting away toys, making beds, and more. The sooner you start giving them daily responsibilities, the better off they will be. They gain confidence when they are able to complete tasks, so allow them to do this and create opportunity for this by assigning chores and duties to your child.
4. Praise and Thank Your Child for A Job Well Done
When children complete tasks and chores, be sure to thank them for contributing to the household. Recognize their worth in the family and their ability to contribute. The message you send to your child when you say “thank you for taking out the garbage” is that they are appreciated. They internalize praise, so be sure to verbalize it when their behavior is good.
Parents sometimes get so focused on the negative behaviors and spend so much time trying to correct the negative that they forgot to recognize the positive behaviors that are happening. Making an effort to take notice of the positive behaviors and verbalize it to your child will have lasting positive effects.
When you have a particular day that the child is acting out continually and your are correcting their behaviors incessantly, then you should stop and change the course. Look for something, anything positive, and offer your child some praise or positive message. Doing so, may help to change the course of the day and the behavior of the child.
Kids want attention. When they aren’t getting any positive attention they will often act out to get attention. Why? Because negative attention is better than no attention at all. Providing positive messages can help to actually curb negative behavior.
5. Spend Quality and Quantity Time with Your Child
Kids need to feel loved in order to have good self worth. If they feel like they are not loved, they can begin to feel like there is something about them that makes them unlovable. Show your children you love them by spending time with them. When you are with them, show them affection and tell them you love them unconditionally. When you fail to spend enough time with your child they can think it is because you don’t love them and don’t want to spend time with them.
Childhood is short and you don’t have the opportunity for do-overs. Take the time to spend quality and quantity time with your child because they won’t be a child for long. Doing so, sends the message to them that you love them and they are worthy of being loved.
6. Don’t Compare Them To Others
“Katie does such a good job getting her chores done when I ask, why can’t you be like Katie”. Ouch. Not a nice thing to say to a child. Comparing a child to others is hurtful and it also makes them resent the other child. This is often why there is sibling rivalry and dissension in a home. Resist the temptation to compare the child to others.
If you need a basis for comparison, use the child’s own behavior as comparison. An example would be- “you did such a great job getting your chores all completed last week, let’s try to work on doing that again this week”. Be sure to use a tone that is encouraging and not disheartening to the child. Sarcastic statements and condescending tones do not help to make your child feel loved. Use statements, words, and tones that affirm and build up your child.
7. Help Them See The Good in Themselves
This tip is the most important and yet is often the most overlooked by parents. Self esteem comes from ones self. Nobody can give someone else self esteem, as self esteem is how a person feels about themselves. In order for children to have good self esteem, they need to see themselves as good and worthy. Parents can help their child recognize what is good about themselves by facilitating conversations on the topic.
Starting conversations with “what do you like doing?” and “what do you think you are good at doing?” and “what do you think you did well at school today?”. Help them to see that they were born as a unique individual with talents, abilities, and gifts that make them special and wonderful. If you are Christians like our family, you can let them know that they are good because they are God’s creation.
The Lasting Effects…
Building up a child is a way of helping them see the goodness and positive attributes that they possess. It is a way of helping them recognize that they are unique and special because they were born with gifts and the abilities to do certain things well in life.
A parent can help their child discover these gifts and abilities as they grow up. Helping them develop their own positive self esteem is a wonderful gift that can last for a lifetime and change the course of their life forever. Self esteem gives them the gift of confidence in who they are so they can eventually go out and take on the world.