Wednesday, February 18, 2015

10 Ways to Boost Your Child's Self-Esteem

The winter our family first moved back to Utah from our years in Texas we had no winter gear of any kind.  I had to find winter coats and boots and gloves for all four girls.  There was no way I would even consider letting them out of the house without having the right kind of protection.  As my girls grew I thought a lot about how I could protect them in every way.  The physical stuff was fairly easy compared to protecting them from all the emotional ups and downs they faced in their lives. The first time my preschooler came home crying because a child made fun of her drawing I wanted to find that kid and rip up his drawing.  I didn’t, but I felt like it.  I realized that I could not stop all rude comments or mean kids or disappointments in my children’s lives but I could take steps to protect them by helping each one of them build a healthy self-esteem. 

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A family therapist, Jane Nelsen, co-author of the Positive Discipline series says that “self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we’re capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile.” A sense of belonging comes to a child when they are raised in a loving family. Sarah Henry wrote an article in 2013, where she listed 10 things that parents can do to help develop and boost their child’s self-esteem.

1.     Give unconditional love: Let your child know you love her no matter what by giving lots of hugs, kisses and cuddles. Also, tell her you love her.  When you do have to correct behavior make sure she knows that it is her behavior- not her- that is unacceptable.

2.      Pay attention: Make eye contact and take time to give your child your undivided attention.  If you are in a time crunch suggest a later time that you could give your undivided attention.  The child will start to feel better about themselves because you are sending the message that you think she is important.

3.      Teach limits:  Set some reasonable rules. Be clear and consistent. Your child will feel secure if she knows what is expected.

4.      Support healthy risks:  Let your child explore something new.  She could try out a new food, a new book, a new toy, or a new friend.  She might experience failure but without risk she cannot succeed. Try not to rescue or intervene if she gets frustrated. If you jump in every time she gets upset with trying something new she will get the message that she is not capable.  You have to balance you need to protect her with the need she has to take on something new.

5.      Let mistakes happen:  Failures are ways to help build your child’s confidence by helping her see what she could do differently the next time.  Admit when you make a mistake.  Your child will understand that it is okay to make mistakes because we all make them and we can all learn from them.

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  6.      Celebrate the positive:  Be specific when praising your child.  If you were to say, “Thank you for being patient and taking your turn,” instead of the generic, “Good job” you will help give her sense of accomplishment and self-worth by letting her know exactly what she did right.

7.      Listen well:  To help your child know that her thoughts and feelings matter you must stop and listen to what she is saying.  You may have to help identify her emotions by saying, “I understand that you are sad when mommy has to leave.”  In this way you validate her feelings.  When you express your own emotions she will gain confidence about expressing her own.

8.      Resist comparisons:  Making comparisons, whether good or bad will affect your child.  Positive comparison will make it hard to live up to and negative comparisons can make her feel bad about herself.  Focus on what makes your child unique and tell her you appreciate that about her.  When you do that she will value that about herself too.

9.      Offer empathy:  If your child is upset because she cannot draw as good as Suzie can let her know you understand her frustration and then talk about one of her strengths.  Help her to see that we all have strengths and weaknesses and that she does not have to be perfect to feel good about herself.

10.  Provide encouragement:  When you encourage you acknowledge progress, it’s not just rewarding achievement.  You send the message that you are proud of them.  But when you praise she can feel like she is only “good enough” when she does something perfect. Give praise judiciously and offer encouragement liberally.

Building self-esteem takes time and effort but doing so will help your child have protection and resilience for what life has to throw her way.

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