Have you ever noticed that there are some children who seem defeated as they deal with inevitable life experiences? This often points to a low level of self-esteem, or one's overall sense of self-worth. Some signs of a child suffering from poor self-image are negative self-talk, the inability to accept a compliment, problems with peers, poor academic performance, unwillingness to try new things, and giving up easily. As parents, we need to be aware that feelings of inferiority and incompetence in our children are the result of lack of self-esteem.
Why do you need to nurture the self-esteem of your child? Children who have good self-esteem are more likely to develop into happy, productive people. But it’s not easy to raise a confident child. To boost your child’s self-image, consider these eight important tips:
1. Stop comparing your child with others Comparison is a common approach used by parents in order to motivate their children. You certainly don’t want to offend your child, but comparing your child to his siblings, friends or relatives will likely do more harm than good. It can be damaging in such a way that it will not only hurt his feelings, but will also affect his outlook later in life. Negative messages such as “At your age, Justin could already solve fractions and play piano better than you,” don't do any good. Furthermore, comparisons such as this could cause unhealthy competition or rivalry among siblings.
2. Let your child take healthy risks Children with high self-esteem are willing to try new things without fear of failure. However, most parents will freak out to see their child doing so, even in everyday instances like climbing too high while exploring the playground. While none of us want our children to get hurt, a little risk is essential to build your child's self-esteem. Of course, children need adult supervision and guidance during playtime, but learning is hindered when parents become overly protective. To build confidence, kids have to take chances, make smart choices, and take responsibility. In other words, risk helps children develop essential life skills.
3. Do not introduce fear of ghosts or monsters to your child The feeling of fear is common among children. Our 8-year old daughter always reminds me of a time when she saw something on TV which caused her to stay awake that night for fear that there might be a monster under her bed. It's important to recognize that even though we parents know that there are no such things as ghosts and monsters, to the child, they are real. Sadly, many parents use this fear to make their children obey them because it can cause nightmares or phobia. Children are too young to have a grasp of the difference between fantasy and reality, and frightening your child with ghosts or monster does not make things better.
4. Your economic condition shouldn’t measure self-worth It’s unfortunate that even children these days tend to determine self-worth based on one's economic situation. Due to poverty or financial condition, sometimes parents may not be able to provide some basic needs to their children, which affect their self concept later in life. Consequently, the child may display the feeling of inadequacy and lack of self-confidence. Stress the importance of character and values, instead of material wealth, while at the same time encouraging your child to strive better despite the lack of resources to achieve his full potential.
5. Set a dialogue with your child Talk with your child regularly. You can discuss about his performance at school, his friends, or anything that may interest him. A quality conversation with your child is a great opportunity to explore about what's on his mind. Whether it's grabbing a bite or taking a bike ride, try to schedule some alone time with your child at least once a week.
6. Let your child know no one is perfect Instead of scolding and criticizing your child, teach him that mistakes are learning experiences. The way you react to your child's mistakes and disappointments colors the way he or she will react to situations. When your child embraces the belief that there is no room for error, he or she will be reluctant to try to explore new things. Know that each child learns at his own pace, so set reasonable expectations. Encourage your child’s interests and talents to ascertain his abilities, and demonstrate that he is indeed capable of achieving success.
7. Give him responsibilities Building self-esteem goes beyond getting good grades and excelling in music and arts--it is also about developing a sense of responsibility. Our role as parents is to teach children about helping one another so they will be productive in the real world. In building self-esteem, your child might also need opportunities to demonstrate his competence and feel that his contribution is valuable. However, proper training must be start at home, which means asking your child to do age-appropriate tasks. Doing household chores can boost your child's self-esteem and make him feel that he is an important member of the family.
8. Do not label your child Highlighting someone's inability is the number one killer of self-esteem. Making a joke at the expense of a child's physical condition ("Tabachingching!") can be degrading, and may result to anxiety and depression. Remember, labeling is detrimental to one's self-worth. When you find inappropriate behavior amongst children like teasing, never hesitate to interfere. It's essential to remind your child to be more sensitive about one’s feelings and be responsible with his or her behavior.
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Positive self-esteem is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. However, the journey to building one is a long process that needs commitment. If parents desire to teach their children self-esteem, continuous encouragement is required to achieve a healthy emotional well being.
This piece was submitted by Smart Parenting reader Jun Amparo, a school counselor at an international school in Thailand, and it first appeared on his blog. He is the author of OMG! OFW’s Money is Gone: Practical Tips on How to Be Wise with Your Hard-earned Money.