Building a child’s self-esteem is one of a parents’ biggest concerns. If they have too much self-esteem, their ego will be falsely inflated, but if they have too little self-esteem, then they will become insecure and anxious. Thankfully, encouraging your kids’ self-esteem isn’t as hard as it might feel. Here are nine ways to help your kids build their self-esteem.
Give them unconditional love…
One of the most important things that you can do for your kids is to show them that your love is not based on any of their behaviors or choices. Kids are worthy of love simply for existing, and parents are some of the most crucial figures who can give that kind of love to them on a daily basis. Kids who don’t get unconditional love will keep striving to earn it, becoming insecure perfectionists who are the opposite of confident.
…but don’t give them unconditional praise.
While your love should be unconditional, there’s something else that shouldn’t be: your praise. Many parents think that they need to praise their kids non-stop to build their self-esteem, but this actually isn’t true. Praising kids even when they have done a bad job will make your praise meaningless and teach them to distrust their instincts. Instead, praise them when they have done a genuinely good job, and offer encouragement when they haven’t. “That was a tough game, but I’m proud of you for not giving up” will mean more after a loss than “you did great!”
Help them learn how to do things.
Teaching kids how to do things on their own will help them feel capable and provide a boost to their self-esteem. Many parents fall into two extremes: either doing everything for their kids or leaving their kids completely on their own to figure things out. The former doesn’t teach them any skills, while the latter tells them that they aren’t worthy of help. The best approach is a middle ground. Show your kids how to do something — such as dressing themselves in their cute children’s clothes — and then give them the opportunity to do it on their own. You can provide reminders or advice if they need them, but you might be surprised at how much they are capable of!
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Let them make their own choices.
Another thing you can do to make your kids feel capable is to let them make their own simple choices. If your kids are too young to consider all the options, then you can present easy binary choices to them and let them decide: Would they like chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Do they want to wear the black or white pair of little kids’ shoes? As they grow older, you can increase the complexity of the choices — for instance, letting them choose from all the shoes in their closet instead of the two pairs you have pre-selected.
Be proud of their creative work.
Craft projects such as finger paintings and clay sculptures are a perfect opportunity to praise your child’s effort and imagination. Try to find specific details to praise, such as their color combinations or use of unusual shapes. Ask them questions about the work and let them talk to you about it. This teaches them that it’s okay to be proud of their own work and that their projects are worthy of attention. If you have room, display the art around the house to further enforce this positive message.
Let them take risks and make mistakes.
It’s tempting to want to save your child from every possible mistake, but it’s critical that you let them create some problems; otherwise, they will never learn how to solve them. If you notice your child doing something that will result in a mess that’s easily cleaned up (such as spilling water on their pretty clothes for girls), let them make the mistake so they can experience the consequences of their actions. Don’t swoop in to immediately make everything better for them, either. Give them a little time to puzzle out a solution. If they can’t figure anything out, then you step in and gently explain how they can clean up their mess.
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Give constructive feedback.
Speaking of making mistakes, these are excellent teaching moments for your kid. Take the opportunity to explain to them why whatever they did wasn’t the best choice, and what they can do better in the future. Refrain from calling your child “bad” or otherwise attributing the failure to them as a person. Instead, separate the behavior from your child and explain why their actions need to change in the future.
Help them set reachable goals.
Learning how to set goals is another important skill that children must learn. Too easy, and they won’t have to strive for their goals. Too hard, and they will constantly fall short and feel like a failure. Help give your kids guidance on how to set goals and how far they should reach. If they are really struggling with self-confidence, then it helps to set an initial goal just within their capabilities so they can meet it and boost their confidence. Once they start feeling better about themselves, they can move on to slightly harder goals.
Be a good role model.
Kids are very intuitive and pick up on a lot of nonverbal cues and background conversations that they don’t seem to actively be paying attention to. That’s why it’s so important to be a good role model of self-esteem yourself. Even if you praise your kids perfectly and are nothing but supportive of them, if you get down about yourself constantly, your kids will pick up on that and internalize it. If you feel like you’ve been doing everything on this list, but your kids are still exhibiting signs of low self-esteem, then look inward to see if they might be getting it from you.
Follow these tips to help encourage self-esteem in your kids, and don’t forget to give them unconditional love!