Building Your Child’s Self Esteem

It’s one of those things that all parents want to provide for their children and one of those things that many feel they do not know how to do: raise a self-confident child. Self-esteem frequently seems like a fragile, distant thing that we all know what it is but don’t know how to develop. Your self-esteem is a compilation of how you feel about yourself. It encompasses everything from your confidence in relationships, to your body image, to your work life. So how do you foster this “thing” in your children? 

We teach our children that “honesty is the best policy.” This applies to how we deal with our children as much as we expect them to be honest with us. When it comes to your child’s self-esteem, they will know or be able to sense if you are not being honest. For example, if art is not your child’s top skill, don’t say their drawing is the best you’ve ever seen. Your child will know it’s not and will not believe you the next time you say something meant to be positive, no matter how honest it is. Instead, tell your child something genuine about the piece or the effort. Make non-judgmental statements such as, “You used your imagination in making the flowers many different colours.” This states your observation rather than false information. 

Also, understand that your child and your child’s behaviour are two separate things. This can be very hard to remember, mainly when your child acts out in ways that make you crazy or unsafe. However, when you discipline your child for the behaviour rather than the person, you can positively influence and foster self-esteem. Why? If your child feels you are mad because of who they are as a person rather than for the behaviour, this can negatively affect your child’s self-esteem. Using “I” statements helps with this. Say something like, “I don’t like it when you leave your toys scattered all over the floor,” which also addresses the behaviour, rather than, “You are a slob,” which attacks their character. 

Let your child make some decisions. Children are in a situation where everyone is constantly telling them what to do, when to do it, where to go, and more. When children are allowed to make some choices, even if it’s something small, they learn to be self-reliant. You don’t want your children growing up feeling dependent on others for direction. Simple choices such as what to wear (you can offer two or three options) or choosing a particular lunch item will foster your child’s ability to think independently.

Encourage your children to try new things. While there’s nothing wrong with encouraging your child’s talents–this will help build self-confidence as well–it’s also crucial that your children learn to experiment. Trying new things helps everyone overcome unknown fears and helps us know to deal with success and failure. A child never learns to try new things, which can create problems later in life. After all, most people do not live in a world where everything is the same day. Life is constantly changing, whether moving to a new city or starting a new career. If children are experienced at trying new things, even if small, life’s more extensive transitions will be much easier–such as leaving for college and starting a career.  

These are, of course, only a few things you can do to help develop your child’s self-confidence. The critical thing to remember is that it is an ongoing process. The little things do add up, even if they seem unimportant. This can be helpful to remember, particularly when something as important as developing your child’s self-esteem feels like a monumental task. It doesn’t have to be! Taking time to recognise your child for their wonderful person, combined with a few techniques and consistency, will go a long way toward raising a healthy, confident adult.