As parents, we can never underestimate the role we play in protecting and building our child’s self-esteem. A good sense of self-esteem is crucial to helping our children grow up happy and secure, and to giving them the ability to overcome life’s many challenges.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way for many children, their self-esteem plummets.
Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, says that by fifth grade, only 20% of children have high self-esteem, compared to 80% of first graders. By the time a child graduates high school, only 5% of them have high self-esteem.
Today, I’d like to share with you 10 things every parent can do to help build and protect his or her child’s self-esteem and create secure, happy, and confident children of the world.
1. Give Your Child Recognition for Successes. All too often our words are reserved for telling our child what not to do rather than recognizing when they do something well. Go the extra mile to not only tell your child she is smart or good at something, but also tell your child exactly what she did that proves she smart. Instead of saying, “You’re so smart,” say, “I thought it was really smart how you designed that tower out of old books.”
2. Give Your Child the Opportunity to Succeed. A true sense of self-worth comes from trying, failing, trying again, and finally succeeding. Allow your child to fail, help them see what needs to change, and then encourage and support them when they try again. Remember, when a child fails, they are given the opportunity to pick themselves up, brush off the dust, and move forward as a stronger and more confident individual.
3. Maintain a Positive Home. After a long day at school, your child needs a positive place to come home to where he can feel secure, supported and loved. If you and your spouse are constantly arguing, your child may not feel that he has control over his environment and may begin to feel helpless.
4. Tell Your Child You’re Proud of the Effort, Not the Outcome. If your child fails (i.e. her team doesn’t win the game), be sure to tell her you’re proud of the effort she put into it and don’t dwell on the loss.
5. Don’t Let Bad Behavior Define Your Child. If your child misbehaves, avoid making overreaching comments like, “You always misbehave” or “You’re a bad kid.” When your child misbehaves, simply respond by saying, “You made a bad choice.” This sends a signal that you’re child isn’t bad, but the choice he made is bad.
6. Help Your Child Overcome Negative Thoughts. Many parents have heard their child say, “I’m not good at math (or fill in the blank).” Your child may be struggling with the subject, but as a parent, it’s important to help the child overcome those negative feelings. Perhaps if your child says, “I can’t do math,” respond by saying, “You do well in school when you work hard. Math is a subject that you may need to spend more time on.” Avoid saying, “I’m not good at math either.” Your child will pick up on those negative cues and feel justified in their negativity.
7. Resist Comparing Your Child to Others. Asking, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” will eventually lead your child to have a lowered sense of self-worth. Emphasize what makes your child unique rather than comparing him to others. Along the same lines, don’t gossip about your child to others. If your child hears you talking with a classmate’s mom or comparing his skills to his friend’s skills, it can negatively impact his self-esteem.
8. Help Your Child Become Well Rounded. Parents should help their child become well-rounded individuals with lots of interests. If you only focus on academic performance, your child may begin to believe that he’s only as good as his grades. On the flip side, if you’ve given him a chance to succeed at music, tennis, or drama, for example, then he is able to explore other interests and find success beyond academia.
9. Volunteer with Your Child. When your child is given the opportunity to help a person in need, it contributes to his own sense of self-worth. Look for opportunities to help others so you can, in turn, help boost your child’s self-esteem.
10. Give Affection Often. Use affection to make your child feel secure. Perhaps you can hug her and tell her, “I love you” frequently. If your child knows your love is constant, she will feel secure at home no matter how difficult her day at school.
As parents, we can look for opportunities each and every day to contribute to our child’s self-esteem and self-worth. Start young and never stop giving your child the direction he or she needs to grow into a well-adjusted, happy and self-confident young adult.