Do you ever wonder why the child next door is full of joy and courage? He seems to take initiative to do things and speak his minds without feeling intimidated. When you turn around and look at your child at home. He seems not interested in anything. He does not ask questions like most children do. You are puzzled and think of what you have done wrong or what your neighbor has done right to raise two children with such different characters.
It’s important that a child is brought up with positive self image and self value. A child brought up in that way shall have the necessary confidence to face their adulthood. But how and where would your child learn self esteem and self worth? In my previous article “Parenting tips”, you would have learned that your child imitate you. Therefore, the most obvious place for them to build self esteem is at home and from you. When your child is young, you are the person who spends the longest hours with them. Your influence in your child’s life can never be underestimated.
Developing your child’s self esteem is your help to prepare them to face the challenges of the world. Researches show that children who have a positive self image and feel confident about themselves have the following traits:
- Better able to resolve conflicts and handle stress and pressures in life.
- Tend to smile more and enjoy life.
- Generally more optimistic.
- More well-rounded, respectful.
- Able to excel in academics, extracurricular activities and hobbies.
- Get along well with peers more easily.
- Anxious and frustrated easily when encountering life’s challenges and difficulties
- Isolated, withdrawn and passive.
- Easily depressed for no apparent reasons.
- Find it difficult to solve problems, especially issues relating to interpersonal skills.
How then should you build your child’s self esteem?
1) Demonstrate your own Self Esteem
In many cultures, especially the culture where I was brought up, it is perceived as proud and arrogant when you show others your strengths and talents. We were taught the wrong value that humility equals to hiding your positive abilities. Therefore our children follow our example. They don’t show how good they are. As parents, we have to learn how to speak positively about ourselves with the children. It’s good to tell them your abilities and successes in career or in life. This simple act is telling your children that it’s okay for them to be proud of their skills and abilities. Of course, we don’t want to overdo it. It’s equally important to educate your child that nobody, including their parents, teachers and themselves, is perfect. All of us have our weaknesses that we seek to improve. However, these weaknesses don’t overshadow us to the extent that we loose confidence in life.
Never self-depreciating yourself or engage in activities that hurt your self worth or importance. Your child’s eyes are upon you all the time. When you nurture your self esteem, your child will learn to do the same. Conversely, if you keep on belittle yourself, your child will also do likewise.
One of the most essential elements in building your child’s self esteem is to give them honest and positive praise everyday. Yes. I mean everyday. You need to be intentional in noticing what your child does that is worthy of your praises. For some strange reasons, parents naturally focus on what a child has done wrong instead of what they’ve done well. Learn to seize the golden opportunity to offer positive praise at the moment when your child does things right or show a positive behavior. For example, you could ask a child to do a job, say keep all his stuffs on the table. You immediately praise him when he finishes the task. This helps your child to learn positive acts merit praise from you.
Parents have to learn how to praise your child correctly. Doing it the right way will shape your child’s personality and build his confidence on their abilities and skills.
- A right action taken.
- A positive and good attitude displayed.
- A great effort put in though the end result may not be as well as you’ve expected.
- The “intrinsic” value of your child as a person.
Some child psychologists assert that praises of children should be based on something they’ve made effort to achieve it (a behavior, an attitude or an action) and should not be given on their in-born appearance like beauty and material things they have such as a dress.
How do you praise your child?
It is important that you have good eye contact with the child when you praise them.
This simple manner will tell them that you’re taking the praises seriously and not a “by the way” kind of stuff. You may also accompany your verbal praises with an appropriate gesture like a wide smile, a hug or scruff of hair. These body languages reinforce your words and they give bigger impact on the child receiving the praises.
The words used in praising your child are also important. You need to say it with no uncertain term what action, behavior or trait you are praising them about. Most children are eager to please the parents. Most of the time, your verbal praises with a warm gesture of being delighted is already a sufficient “reward” for them. In some cases, you notice that your child was making extraordinary effort in behaving the right way; you may want to give them extra like an ice cream cone as a reward.
You have to be careful not to criticize or make negative comments on your child’s mischievous behaviors or actions immediately after you praise them. The poor child may be utterly confused. The younger your child is; he requires longer time to digest and feel your compliment and praise. Give them time to feel secure and confident.
There’re times when your child may feel angry, sad or depressed, it’s just a natural part of growing up. Don’t be over alarmed. What you need to do is to be patient and give them a pair of listening ears without being quick to judge and criticize. Your child may be too young to understand their emotions; therefore it is a golden chance for you to impart positive value and self image into their lives. How can you do that? You need to encourage your child to verbalize their feelings honestly so that you could help them sort out the difficult situation. You have to end your communication with your child in a positive and understanding note. They are assured that you’ll be available and not judging or laughing at them when they feel bad the next time
You may want to design small and achievable project goals for your child to accomplish. These goals can be simple tasks like switch off the lights and fan when leaving the room, or they can be more challenging ones such as make a certain improvement on his Mathematics test. Don’t be over ambitious. Remember it’s better for your child to achieve successes in less significant tasks than to experience failure in big and ambitious goals. When there’re repeated successes happening in your child’s life, they become more confident and able to take the bigger challenges the next time round. You can “engineer” successes in your child’s life by:
- Setting realistic expectations and standards.
- Help to identify the traits and skills needed to achieve the goals.
- Encourage teamwork (among siblings and larger family members).
- Praise the child’s accomplishment during the project (process) instead of only at the end (results).
5) Tell Them You Love Them
This is a sure recipe for success in building your child’s self esteem; tell your child “I love you” each and every day, as many times as you can throughout the day. Your child may be mischievous and does something really step on your nerves, please keep your cool. In your anger, don’t shout at them at the top of your voice. Remember that it’s their behaviors that we dislike but not your child as a person. When you love them, you’ll surprise to notice that they are showing affection and love to you in return very quickly.
Make A Difference in Your Child’s Life
Your child’s self esteem is a key personality trait that determines his ability to face life’s challenges in the future. Being a parent, you play an essential role in shaping that. By being positive yourself, you provide a role model for your child to imitate for success. In praising your child correctly, sharing your heart openly with them, reinforcing successes and repeatedly telling them how much you love them, will build a strong sense of self worth in their life.
Be patient and continue to speak life into your children.
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