A blog I follow recently posted “50 Things you can do to build self-esteem.” The list is comprised of very insightful, action steps that anyone can take. Of course this list is not the only one out there. Women’s magazines, self-help books, seminars, and even professions revolve around fixing poor self-esteem.
Healthy self-esteem is the value a person puts on themselves. If you feel you have little to no value, then why bother with – “fill in the blank”. Building self-esteem in children is not always approached correctly. Overpraising a child and clearing out all the obstacles in her path, is simply not effective. In fact, that method often backfires creating an attitude of entitlement, full of selfishness, and little respect for anyone, including herself.
With that said, there are things a parent can do to help a child gain a strong self of self. You can help build self-esteem by offering three main things.
When your child was a baby, she wore what you put on her, listened to the books you choose, and basically complied with your desires, and if she didn’t, you could physically pick her up and move her.
Now though, the things your child likes are different than you. It is time to build a real relationship. Without a relationship, rules mean nothing, said Dr. Kevin Leman, in his book “Have a New Kid by Friday”. I have been following the work of Dr. Leman, a psychologist and bestselling author of more than 30 books, including “The Birth Order Book” and “Making Children Mind without Losing Yours,” throughout the past 20 years of my parenting experience and his tips are the most rational and realistic I have heard. Better yet, according to the results I see in my children, his wisdom is effective.
If you show constant disapproval, she will look for acceptance elsewhere. Kids and adults for that matter can rarely separate disapproval with one of their choices from being unaccepted as a person.
Unconditional acceptance involves being willing to talk about what they like, even if it is not your thing. If you choose to push them away, you may push them right into a bad crowd and in the process damage their self-esteem.
Building a strong family identity is one of the best things you can do to buffer your child’s self-esteem. I often joke about a family I know, sarcastically referring to them as the “royals.” It is fascinating to see the strong sense of self all of the children have and how quick they are to make good choices. Part of that is due to how the parents instilled expectations, but most important they know they are connected to a family that cares deeply about them.
Everyone wants to feel as if they belong. Without a sense of belonging, self-esteem plummets and kids will look for somewhere to fit in. Maybe the sense of belonging is found in a clique that dictates how they dress, and what they do, a gang, or maybe they are simply left feeling completely alone.
Aside from basic care, food, and shelter, takes it to the next level by talking about what makes your family different, special. Create traditions that everyone enjoys and take the time listen.
Another way to build self-esteem is to give your child room to grow. The first thing on the “50 Things to do to build self-esteem” list is to “become proficient at something.” Practicing and getting better at something builds self-esteem; being overprotected and coddled will not.
Fight the urge to do everything for your child. Doing tasks your child should be doing doesn’t always send the message you think it is. Instead of feeling loved, they may feel stupid, unable to do anything important.
I am shocked at how well my younger son handles tools and machinery. He is an incredible help around not only my house, but the homes of several neighbors. The positive encouragement he receives continues to bolster his self-esteem. But, if my husband would have listened to me, and kept him away from the tools that this boy was interested in at a young age, this wouldn’t be the case.
Kids mature and develop self-esteem through experiencing life. Mistakes will be made, but as long as it is not a life or death situation, give them room to try. A little confidence goes a long way in fueling the next attempt and may save him from having to read a list of “50 Things to do to build self-esteem” when he is an adult!
More by Sylvie Branch:
Nurture through nature: Benefits of spending time in nature
Definition of Insanity for Parents
4 Things to Stop Obsessing Over, Mom