A child’s self-esteem is similar to armour that a soldier wears in the battlefield. It helps to defend your child as he navigates the battlefield that we call life. Therefore, as parents, it is very important to help your child build on his self-esteem at a very young age so that he has the armour ready when he finally meets the world.
What is self-esteem, you may ask. Self-esteem is related to self-worth (the value a person puts on himself) and it changes every day based on the experiences that the person gets. However, the overall self-esteem, or self-confidence, is build up over the years from infancy to adults and old age.
Self-esteem can also be recognised as the feeling of being capable while feeling loved. When a child feels that he has achieved something of worth, but was not shown love and appreciation, he will soon feel that his achievement is worthless and apply the same label to himself. The feeling of worthless might then develop into low self-esteem over time.
Patterns of self-esteem start at a very young age. As an infant, self-worth is developed when the baby understands the relationship between himself and his parents. By showing love and responsiveness, the parents instil a strong sense of self-worth in the child. As the child grows into a toddler, the elements of self-esteem start to build. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to recognise the important of their role as the best people to build their child’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Do you think that heaping praises on your child helps to build his self-esteem? The answer is yes and no. Heaping praises that are excessive or forced will produce the exact opposite results that you wanted. Praises must be used in moderation as it could potentially cause your child to become arrogant and unreceptive to learning. We will speak more on this below.
Below are some tips on what you can do to build a healthy self-esteem for your child.
Let Your Child Choose
Offer your child options in the things that he wanted to do. For example, ask him what he wants for breakfast – toast with eggs or cereals with milk. By offering choices to your child within a reasonable set of options preselected by you, you make your child feel empowered. This feeling of empowerment will follow him into adulthood when the choices he has to make in life turn from simple to complex.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Children are sensitive to what their parents say, especially in the younger formative years. Therefore, it is crucial for the parents to remember that words can cause irreparable damage to their child’s self-esteem. When your child does a job really well, be careful to praise not only the good result, but also the efforts that were put into the job. Praising children for only their good results might reflect to them that you only care about their good results and not their efforts.
Sometimes, when your child did not do so well, it is equally critical to help him overcome his disappointment and potential self-blame. By showing him that everyone has something that they are not good at will help the child to understand his own strengths and weaknesses. When he understands that, he will be able to accept failure in his life later on when bigger events happen.
Watch Out for Your Own Self-esteem
Children mirror their parents in almost all ways. If you do not have a healthy dose of self-esteem as a parent, it is easy for your child to follow after you. Hence, it is imperative that you examine your own self-esteem and determine if you are harbouring any bad habits that lead you to show poor self-esteem in front of your child. Watch out for excessive criticism about yourself or unrealistic goals that you have set. These can become the hindrances in building a healthy self-esteem in your child. The key to helping your child develop a robust self-esteem is to have one yourself.
Give Your Child Time to Figure Things Out on His Own
Be patient when your child learns something new. Do not rush to complete the task for him or to take over the task completely without letting him try. By allowing your child to figure how things work on his own, it helps him to develop new skills. For example, let your child tie his own shoelaces instead of doing it for him. By giving him new challenges every now and then, you child will grow confident as he becomes competent in the new tasks.
Praise Only When Necessary
As mentioned earlier, do not lavish praise on your child all the time. Appropriate praises help to give confidence to your child, but lavish praises will begin to sound insincere after some time. When you give praises, be specific with what you want to say. For example, if your child did well for his spelling test, say, “I am so proud of you for making the efforts to learn the words” instead of “You are so smart to score full marks for your spelling”. The specification of telling your child that you are proud of him because of his efforts rewards the child with pleasure that his achievement and hard work is noticed and appreciated. In return, he would continue to do the same while building positive self-esteem.
Keep an Eye on Inaccurate Beliefs
Children tend to form inaccurate beliefs about themselves as they socialise in school. It is therefore important for parents to keep an eye on any inaccurate beliefs that they might developed. It could be anything from their abilities to their attractiveness. Draw out any negative self-image from your child as soon as you notice something wrong and help him to set accurate and realistic standards in evaluating himself. If this is not done properly, these inaccurate beliefs can become a stumbling block to the child in his adulthood.
Provide Positive Feedback
When your child does something positive, re-enforce it by telling your child that he did the right thing. Such feedback encourages the child to do the same thing again in future because he knows that it is the right thing to do. Such positive feedback also acts to boost the child’s self-esteem as he receives something positive from his parents.
Dish out Age-appropriate Housework
Allow your child to help out at home with housework attains 2 benefits – they learn how to do the chores and also build self-esteem! When you let your child handle part of the housework, he feels a sense of belonging to the family as he sees himself helping out in the house. He feels great about himself as well when he completes the task assigned. These also help to increase his competency in these tasks and aids in problem-solving skills.
Do Not Belittle Your Child
This is the worst thing that you can do – belittling your child. If your child makes you angry, take a breather before you discipline him. In this way, you will not accidentally say things that you do not intend to say. It is very important to show your child that while you may not like what he has done, you will always love him as your child. Therefore, never call your child ugly names or use sarcasm when speaking to him.
Be Spontaneous and Affectionate
Express your love to your child all the time. Give hugs and say “I love you” often. Your child glows with warmth whenever you do that because he knows that he has parents who love him for who he is. Do not be critical of what he does. Guide him to the correct path if he has done something wrong and give encouragement whenever he did something right.
Provide a safe and loving home
Try not to argue or fight with each other in front of your child. If there are some disagreements between you, try to settle it amiably without raising your voice. A home when the parents fight all the time is not a safe and loving home. A child who grows up in such an environment often feels insecure and has a low self-esteem as he feels that he could not control his home environment.
Spend Time with Your Child One-on-One
Schedule a time to spend with your child alone every week. It bonds you and your child immeasurably and at the same time, gives you an avenue to find out what is on his mind. Moreover, having these bonding times also make him feel important, as he sees that you care enough to take time off just to spend time with him.
We hope that these tips help! Remember, promoting your child’s self-esteem is a delicate business and it is crucial not to have “too much” or “too little”. It ought to be “just enough” and the fine balance of “just enough” is also not to make your child feels average. Be sure to walk that fine line between “too much” and “too little” so that your child feels capable and develop a strong self-esteem. You can speak with your friends about what they do to build their children’s self-esteem or even join a parent’s support group if you are really unsure how to help your child.