We all remember the awkward days of childhood where you felt like you never really fit in. Growing up is hard for everyone, and trying to fit in can do a number on a child’s self-esteem. As parents, we collect parenting tips that we think will enable us to protect our children from the things that hurt us when we were their age. But, we also know that we have to allow them to struggle in the same ways so they can grow into resilient and confident people.
By now many of you have likely wondered some version of the question, “how do I help my child with self-esteem?” It’s one of the parenting tips we get asked about often. Since all of our children are different, it's important to note that the parenting tips we share ought to be taken with the understanding of who your child is. Each of us needs different things to feel safe in our relationships and our communities, but here are some consistent themes we see in children with healthy self-esteem.
Help Them Learn To Do Things For Themselves
As much as we want to make our children’s lives easy, it's critical for their development that they’re given the opportunity to learn how to do things for themselves. This learning may range from doing their laundry to resolving conflicts with their peers and even finishing their school work. When we manage their lives for them, they never build the skills they need to manage their lives for themselves. And it's exactly those lessons that build self-esteem in children. If there is one of our parenting tips we encourage you to try, it's this. Your whole family will benefit from a more confident child.
Our children learn from watching what we do and say. That’s how they learn to walk, talk, and eat. That’s also how they learn how to feel about themselves. If we want our children to feel confident about their achievements, their personalities, and their God-given beauty, we parents need to have some awareness about what example we're setting for them. If you are openly critical of your appearance or your perceived failures at work or home, your kids will notice. One of our simple parenting tips, take some time to observe yourself, you may be surprised at the amount of time you spend speaking negatively about yourself in front of your kids.
Focus On Their Strengths
As we teach our children, it’s often much easier to see what they are doing wrong than it is to see all of the things they do right. Perhaps your child isn’t tidy, or she’s loud, or stubborn. You might be surprised how often we as parents tend to harp on the negative aspects of our children in hopes of changing them, without spending enough time celebrating their strengths. Constant criticism makes all of us feel bad about ourselves, and this is even more powerful for children who are still developing a sense of self-esteem. It’s ok to correct your children, but it’s helpful to spend just as much time focusing on the things they do well. Maybe your daughter is messy but also extremely kind. Your son who is struggling in math might be excelling in reading. When your children know they are good they will behave as such.
Use Praise Responsibly
Consider how much time you spend praising your children for things they have no control over. We see this often with young women who grow up hearing more compliments about their appearance than about the qualities they work hard to cultivate. When it comes to building self-esteem it's the talents that your children work hard to cultivate like kindness, artistic talent, or math skills that make a difference in how they feel about themselves. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to praise your children for the areas they put the most work into.
Use Kind Language And Encourage Them To
Going back to the example that we set for our children, one of our favorite parenting tips is to teach your children to only use kind language when speaking about themselves. For example, if your daughter performs poorly on a test you wouldn’t want her feeling so self-critical that she’s unable to move forward. Rather than thinking “I’m such a dummy,” encourage your children to speak kindly of themselves like, “I’m disappointed, but I know I tried my best.” You may find that this is another of our parenting tips that also apply to our lives as parents. Speak kindly of yourself and your children will be more likely to follow suit.
Celebrate Your Children’s Successes
When your child works hard to achieve something and is successful, have a celebration! Whether they’re doing an art project, writing a book report for school, or playing in a big soccer match, celebrating their wins will help them feel a sense of self-esteem. And remember, success is not just in winning the game or getting an A on the book report. Self-esteem is built in the practice and execution of a skill. In this case, it’s often more powerful for their self-esteem to celebrate the things they're not naturally gifted at than the things that come very easily to them.
The internet is packed with parenting tips about self-esteem and any of the other parenting questions you may have. The key to the successful execution of parenting tips is to use them consistently and to find the things that work best for your family. It also helps to partner with an experienced and compassionate teacher who can reinforce these parenting tips in the classroom. If you’re looking for more parenting tips, feel free to peruse our website, or if you’d like to learn more about enrolling your child at St. Barnabas School, contact us today.