A healthy self-esteem is the foundation to a lifetime of positive mental health and social happiness. How you feel about yourself affects how you behave and how you treat others. Kids who understand their own strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflict and resisting negative pressures. It’s our job as parents to help build our children’s self-esteem and make them feel good about themselves. Here are a few tips I’ve used over the years with my 7 kids:
Words of praise go a long way in building a child’s self-esteem. It is important to be honest in your praise as well as recognizing the effort the child made. Reward effort and completion of a task regardless of the outcome. State how proud you are for their willingness to try something new. You could say something like, “Even though you didn’t make the team, I’m proud of you for practicing and trying out.”
Help kids overcome disappointment with humor. Sometimes a skill level just isn’t there due to age or experience. Help them discover things they are good at and help them understand we all have different gifts and talents. We can still participate in activities that we’re not especially good at just because we enjoy them. For example, you could share with them that you love to sing even though you can’t carry a tune.
Be a positive role model for your kids. Nurture your own self-esteem in front of them by sharing positive self-talk for them to mimic. Kids will pick up on your habits and attitudes so be careful to portray a realistic representation of your attitudes and abilities.
Identify any unhealthy or inaccurate self-perceptions your kids have about themselves and correct them. Kids can put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect or to look a certain way. Help them recognize that diversity is what makes them interesting and unique. Focus on things they do well overall, but address something specific they could improve. For instance, you could say, you are an excellent student in school, but you could spend more time working on grammar.
Be generous with your love and affection. Send notes in your kid’s lunch box that share something special like “I think you’re terrific!” Tell them you’re proud of them when they try something new or they success at something they previously fail at. Help them demonstrate kindness towards others.
Be honest in your praise and help your kids be humble. An over inflated sense of self can cause kids to think they are better than others, or put others down to feel better about themselves. Point all we all have strengths and weaknesses and we all do things better than others and we all do things less well than others. We all have a role to play on a team and each member of the team is equally important.
Acknowledge kids’ feelings and validate how they feel. When they are young, help them identify words to express how they feel so their frustrations can be addressed and worked through. Empower them with choices on how to fix the problem so it doesn’t persist.
Create a safe home environment free of yelling and abuse. Kids who grow up in abusive environments are more likely to have low self-esteem. Kids who witness their parents fighting may feel like they can’t control their environment and may succumb to depression or feel helpless and afraid.
Allow your kids to participate on teams where cooperation rather than completion is the goal. For example, having an older child mentor a younger child in reading or math. Volunteering as a family in your local community is also beneficial for helping kids learn to contribute and make a positive impact in their world.
Help kids take pride in what they are doing not matter how big or how small. Teach them that a job done well is important whether it’s making their bed or doing math homework. Teach them their effort is an extension of their character and being known for doing a good job is important.
Parenting Expert and father of 7, Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell) offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of Daddy & Co., delivery room duds and daddy gifts and apparel for every stage of fatherhood, and the Daily Daddy Blog. He is also the creator and producer of “My Life as a Dad,” the groundbreaking new web series that showcases celebrity fathers offering their personal experiences and parenting tips.