Self-esteem in children is seen as an important component of their future success. The fact that the strongest influence on self-esteem is a child’s parents can be either comforting or terrifying. A healthy self concept is neither elevated nor depressed, and achieving a happy medium in how your child views him or her self is the goal.
The problem with self-esteem is that it is largely an inner issue. We can’t give our child the right levels of self-esteem like a birthday gift. The issue can’t be dealt with once and then be done with it, like learning to tie one’s shoes. Building a healthy self-esteem is an on-going process that never ends. It goes on and on, even as our children head into adulthood.
Parents, take heart—there are many things we can do! Here are some guidelines:
– Provide age and developmentally-appropriate opportunities for success (and failure).
Our lives are defined in part by what we’ve accomplished, what challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome them. By providing our children with appropriate activities to develop their skills we are building on their concepts of self. Part of building a healthy self-concept is as easy as being in tune with our child’s interests and responding to them. Look for toys and activities that encourage your child to stretch themselves just slightly beyond their current level of mastery. But be careful not to introduce challenges that are too difficult.
– Don’t be afraid to discipline.
Many parents have difficulty with the concepts of discipline and punishment. They are two very different things. A child needs limits and boundaries to develop into a well-rounded individual.
– Use praise and rewards appropriately.
Praise and rewards, are not the only ways to promote healthy self-esteem. The problem is not in praise or rewards themselves, but in the way they are sometimes used. When using praise ensure you are as specific as possible rather than simply falling back on the standard “Good Job!” or “Way to go!” Remember to acknowledge effort and not simply the finished product or outcome.
– Spend time with your children.
It’s simple and it works. Time spent with your children shows them how important they are to you. No matter how busy your schedule is, setting aside time for your children is a significant investment in developing their self-esteem. You don’t need to plan anything special or go to any expense.
– Develop your own interests and talk about them with your children.
Parents sometimes forget that the most influential way to teach our children is not with our words but with our actions. If you feel conflicted about your own self-esteem levels, your child might pick up on that. So take a course, join a sporting activity, or just take some time to do something for yourself. Having your children see that you value yourself gives them a positive role model in the quest for a healthy self-concept.
These are just some of the many ways you can work towards developing the ideal balance of self-esteem in your child. It’s an investment in the future that doesn’t need to cost a thing.