Anyone who has kids knows that they are both a magical blessing and a constant source of stress. Raising children requires a lot of work—just feeding, cleaning and dressing them takes up a good chunk of a parent’s time, and that’s before we even begin to teach them about the world. It is important to pass on good values to our little ones, but even more importantly, we want them to feel confident in their abilities and to have a realistic, yet positive self-image. If you want to help your child build self-esteem, try out some of these strategies.
1. Talk to your child and find out if there are any problems.
Effective communication is essential for building healthy and lasting relationships. Being a child is exiting, confusing and even scary at times, so your child may have a lot of questions about the world as well as fears and doubts. Other kids might be mean to your child, the child may feel inadequate in certain ways, and he or she may feel insecure about their body or intimidated by social interactions. It is important to establish trust and let the child tell you why it may feel unsure of itself, so you can work together on finding a solution.
2. Help your child find an activity he or she feels passionate about.
Some people are born with an incredible voice; some have a good ear for music; others have the bone structure and musculature that can make them a great athlete; and some have a vast imagination and a flare for story-telling. Find out what your child’s natural talents are and help them engage in activities they find the most fun.
Dancing, painting, playing an instrument or something more pragmatic like math are all good options—just make sure that your child is motivated. As the child begins to develop a higher level of skill, his or her self-esteem will shoot through the roof.
3. Be forgiving to others and show your child that compassion is a great virtue.
Everyone makes mistakes; it’s a part of maturing and a necessary step in attaining wisdom. By practicing forgiveness, you let your child now that, although what they did was wrong for a number of reasons, it’s quite alright to make a mistake every now and then.
It also shows them that even though people sometimes argue and feelings get hurt, reconciliation is possible with a little bit of compromise and empathy. Your child will learn this lesson from you and start practicing forgiveness in their daily life.
4. Teach your child to focus on building meaningful relationships, look for happiness in small things and strive for success.
Many people attain a certain level of wealth, power and skill, yet they never conquer their fears and remain unsure of themselves. Teach your child about the value of true friendship and how others can help make you stronger. Teach them to turn to the hundreds of positive little things in life when looking for happiness and to be ambitious and persistent.
Failure is just an opportunity to come back even stronger and with good friends there to back you up, even your darkest moments can seem a bit brighter. There is no better way to help your child build high self-esteem than to show them the value of having others who believe in you.
5. Teach children to set attainable goals.
Wanting to be the first man on Mars, a world famous ballerina or a movie star are very ambitious goals and show just how creative your child can be, but they may be unattainable. It’s not a good idea to shower your child with praise all the time and give them an unrealistic image of themselves and their abilities. Let them give anything a shot, but if they clearly aren’t meant to be a singer, don’t hesitate to tell them that. Be easy on them and offer alternatives. Help them formulate some short-term goals that are easily attainable with some hard work and have these smaller goals build up to something more long-term but still within reach.
For example, if you sign them up for a dance class, their short-term goals could be to master certain moves and practice at least 2 hours every day, while a bigger goal might be to place high in a local dance competition. Eventually, they could strive to improve and win some larger competitions in a few years and perhaps become a dance instructor when they grow up. As they start achieving goal after goal, they will feel more confident and happier.
6. Teach your child how to be organized and how to study for best results.
Many people believe that studying is all about sitting down and staring at a book for hours. This can lead to a child feeling frustrated and believing that he or she isn’t smart enough to learn a subject. Being organized is a skill that can be learned. A child needs a good balance between studying, doing their chores and having fun—a balance that can only be achieved by organizing their time effectively. Some subjects can be more difficult for a child than others and they may have problems when they feel they are racing against a clock. Tests in particular can be stressful and take all the fun out of learning.
Luckily there are many online resources available for preparing your child for standardized exams so they can feel more relaxed and sure of themselves. You should also try to make learning somewhat fun—documentaries, movies, video games and practical examples can work wonders to get kids interested in a particular subject.
7. Enroll your child in classes that focus on physical activity.
A healthy mind in a healthy body, as the old saying goes. Getting a good deal of physical exercise during the day is not only beneficial to your child’s health, but can also help them develop strong and agile body that they can be proud of.
Looking good and feeling good will help your child build self-esteem, while playing a sport will enable them to be around like-minded kids and improve their social skills.
8. Play with your child whenever you get the chance.
Some emotional and physical contact with others on a daily basis is very important for a child. Devote some time to listening to their stories, engage in some creative activities and teach them some valuable skills in the process.
Anything can be made into a game, so you have plenty of opportunity to get your child used to teamwork, problem solving and expressing themselves freely.
9. Become a good role-model by practicing what you preach
Kids simply soak up information from their immediate surroundings and they will turn to you as their main source of information on acceptable behavior. Monkey see, monkey do is their main strategy. Be sure that you show your child how one should behave through actions; don’t just tell them what they should do and then do the very things you instructed them not to do.
If your child sees that their parents aren’t afraid to express themselves, that they try to be good to others and are very social and open with other people, the child will emulate this confident behavior in their lives.
10. Teach your child about responsibilities and the value of hard work.
A child shouldn’t be held to the same high standards as adults, but they should understand that their actions affect others and that there are people who count on them. If the child understands why it’s necessary for them to do their chores and that it takes hard work to earn a living, he or she will have a different outlook on life. Children are often happy to help out their parents and feel proud when they contribute. Older kids can look after smaller kids during the day, a child can help their parents in the kitchen, they can help with home repairs (even if it just means handing tools to dad), and they can clean the house and help organize events like family reunions and Thanksgiving.
This way, they know that they are capable of a lot of things and that people rely on them, which builds character and helps your child build self-esteem.
When it comes to helping your kids build self-esteem, it’s important to remember to communicate, spend some time with your child and allow them to make their own choices, while at the same time nudging them in the right direction.