Self-esteem plays a significant role in the development of healthy children. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that a child’s self-esteem is already established by age five and is comparable in strength to that of adults. Children with high self-esteem generally become more successful in life.
Unfortunately, the outcomes for children with low self-esteem can be quite poor. As a parent, your child’s self-esteem is primarily your responsibility. You can do a lot to help your child feel confident and competent.
Children with high self-esteem have the confidence to try new activities and feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments. While it’s never pleasant to fail, these kids possess the emotional ability to withstand the lack of success and maintain the courage to try again. Children with low self-esteem are self-critical and have difficulty being positive when making mistakes, which may make them unable to try again or refuse the next opportunity to succeed.
Children can be sensitive and have a peer group that can be harsh, so as a parent, what you do at home matters tremendously. Your child’s healthy self-esteem will also serve as a buffer to survive the unpleasantness of other kids.
Give your child the best chance to thrive and be happy. Use the following strategies to help them feel good about themselves:
1. Love your child unconditionally. Every child should believe that no matter what they do—success or failure—their parents still love them and will continue to be there for them. Consider the impact on a child’s self-esteem when they believe they’re only loved when they behave a certain way or achieve a specific result.
2. Spend quality time. Spending one-on-one time with your kids has more to do with ordinary daily life than what you might initially expect. It’s simple and meaningful interactions, such as bedtime stories and family dinners, that are essential for your child’s development and future relationships. Try to carve out time to connect with your child daily.
3. Help to set achievable goals. Few things are more beneficial to self-esteem than success. Work with your child to establish these goals. Begin with goals that are easy to accomplish to provide them with a taste of success and the confidence boost that goes along with it. For example, an achievable goal for a young child might be to pick up their toys and put them away.
4. Encourage persistence. Success and persistence go hand-in-hand. Encourage your child to be persistent, and you are showing them how to be successful. Praise them when they stick to a difficult task and don’t give up. One way you can help your kids is to set a good example. Demonstrate what it means to persevere and to have a positive attitude.
5. Give your child choices.When you don’t have control over your life, it’s hard to have self-esteem. Give your child choices to provide a sense of self-control and encourage their ability to trust their own judgment. This can be as simple as giving them two options for lunch or choosing what outfit they wear to school, even if it’s a little mismatched.
6. Discourage perfection. Discourage your child from attempting to be perfect—a game no one can win. Your child’s self-esteem will suffer when they realize they can never be perfect. Show them that you value effort and progress. These are actions that anyone can achieve.
7. Avoid over-praising. Your child knows when your praise is excessive. In fact, excessive praise has been shown over time to hurt a child’s confidence rather than boost it. Give credit when recognition is due. Praise your child for making a reasonable effort, and be as specific as possible versus speaking in general terms. For example, instead of saying, “That painting looks beautiful!” say something like, “I love the way you used so many different colors!”
8. Allow your child to overhear you complimenting them. A child gets a significant boost in their self-esteem when they hear a parent praising them to another adult. Your kids are always watching you. Use that to your advantage whenever possible.
9. Take good care of yourself. Taking proper care of yourself shows your kids that you’re important and value yourself. They will believe they’re important and should also take care of themselves. You can model to your child how to make themselves a priority.
There’s no doubt that a child with high self-esteem is happier and more confident. We want the best for our children, so our responsibility is to help lead them down this path.
What we do at home can significantly impact our children’s future. Teach your children to love, value, and believe in themselves, and they’ll reap the benefits throughout their lives.