Although there are many ways of defining the concept of self-esteem, in general the term encompasses the way we think and feel about ourselves, and the way we evaluate ourselves. Children with healthy self-esteem believe that they are deserving of love, and they possess a willingness to face challenges in which they may not succeed.
Children with low self-esteem tend to be very critical of themselves, are hesitant to face challenges because failure will confirm their negative self-view, show poor frustration tolerance, and do not feel worthy of love. Furthermore, having a negative self-esteem is correlated with many mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use.
One of the major goals of parents is ensuring that their child develops and fosters a healthy self-esteem to carry with them through life. Here are 10 tips to help your children see their inner beauty:
1. Model healthy self-esteem by taking care of yourself.
Children are quite tuned into the state of their parents’ overall well-being, and parents often don’t see how much children are paying attention. In fact, children use their parents as a model for behavior and as a mirror for their own feelings. So if you are struggling with your own self-esteem and demonstrating these struggles through your words and actions, chances are your children will too.
It’s never too late to build your self-esteem, and increase your ability to be a great role model for your children. Engaging in psychotherapy, for example, is an excellent way to gain assistance with life’s challenges, including parenting, and to increase your love for yourself.
2. Pay attention to how you speak to and listen to your child.
Watch the labels and judgments that you say to your children to describe their character, as they can make more of an impression than you want. For example, “Michael is not a good sharer” can be interpreted by your child as a global statement of disapproval, rather than the description of a particular behavior.
So describe behaviors in the moment, rather than globalizing them (e.g., “Michael had difficulty sharing his toy with Marcos last time”) and model the behavior that you want your child to exhibit.
3. Help your children to express feelings and change inaccurate beliefs.
Prompt your children to express feelings both in successful and challenging situations, so they become adept at recognizing and verbalizing emotions. When you hear your children express negative beliefs about themselves (e.g., “I’m stupid”), encourage them to view the situation differently (“What proof do you have that you’re stupid? One bad grade does not mean that you are stupid. You have a lot of strengths too!”).
4. Stress the importance of effort and completion rather than performance.
Research demonstrates that it is more effective to reward actual effort and completion of a task, rather than praising children for their performance compared to others. You want to ensure that your children understand that they are valued because of who they are, not how they perform and measure up to other children.
5. Create a safe, loving environment at home.
A family and home environment that is safe, loving, and has established rules and structure is essential to building self-esteem in children. Be sure to be mindful of your children’s interactions with others at school and in their peer groups as best as you can, to ensure they are safe and secure in those relationships as well.
6. Remember and demonstrate that failure is a part of life.
In order to learn and develop, we must experience failure in our lives. Children with high self-esteem tolerate failure and see it as an opportunity for learning and growth. And along with that …
7. Let your children take some risks and make some of their own choices.
Although may parents find it incredibly difficult to stand back and watch their children fail, it is imperative to developing a healthy self-esteem that you let your children take risks and chances, so they develop confidence in themselves and in their choices, and learn problem-solving skills. Furthermore, they understand that failure and success are not reflective of their worth.
8. Have your children be involved in cooperative experiences.
It is important that children experience cooperation and collaboration through a host of activities such as volunteering, team sports (especially ones that stress teamwork), music and art endeavors, and camp.
9. Teach your children to be critical of media, especially social media.
Rather than outright forbidding or limiting your child’s exposure to social media (which often makes them want to see it more), help them to view media and internet postings with a critical eye so they learn to effectively understand how to manage the information and messages they are being given.
10. Remember that love is unconditional.
Make sure your children know and experience your love for them no matter what happens, and make it clear that your love for them has no limitations. This is a powerful component to building your children’s self-esteem.
If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their self-esteem, consider having them see a psychotherapist to help build their repertoire of skills for dealing with the challenges they face, and foster positive self-beliefs that will increase their self-esteem.
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