Self-confidence is such an important attribute to have and it’s something we would all like to instill in those we love, especially our little ones. Confident children tend to be better at handling conflict than those who have low self-esteem. They are more resilient, optimistic, and generally tend to be more successful in life. Because they tend to have an “I can” attitude, they are happy to take risks, and try new things. Confident children are also more comfortable socially than those with a poor self-image.
So where does confidence come from? It comes from you, their parents. It comes from knowing they are loved, and feeling secure that they will continue to be loved no matter what. Your involvement, as well as that of other caregivers and role models, is crucial to developing healthy self-esteem. And since it gets harder to change a person’s self-image the older they get, it’s important that this happens as early as possible. Here are a few helpful dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you make your way through the minefield that is modern day parenting.
Do be attentive to your children when they want to share something with you. Too often children are ignored because their parents are too busy or distracted to pay attention to them, leaving them to feel unappreciated. Show them that they are worth your time and attention, and that their achievements, however small, have been noticed. By ignoring them, you are inadvertently communicating to them that their thoughts and achievements are of little value to the people that matter most.
Do encourage them to try again. When we fail, we have two choices: to give up, or to try again. If they make a habit of giving up, they will inevitably start to believe that they are unable to succeed. But remember, there is a big difference between encouraging them and pressuring them.
Don’t stress too much about their mistakes or failures; by doing so, you’re focusing all attention on the mistake, making it difficult for you or your child to see past it and move on.
Do make an effort to turn mistakes or shortcomings into learning experiences. When they perform poorly on an exam, try not to focus on the failure, but instead use it as an opportunity to work on the areas where your child is struggling. Teach them that mistakes are there for us to learn from, and that they are just as valuable as successes.
Do try to reframe their inaccurate perceptions into more realistic and positive ones. A good example of this would be a child who believes no one loves them because they are unpopular at school. Draw their attention to the fact that their family loves and values them, and encourage them to instead focus their attention on something else like their school work or an interesting project. Most of the time, unpopular kids are a bit different to the others. If you reframe this difference into something more positive by teaching them that differences can be a strength, it will help them find that strength in themselves and create confidence from this.
Don’t compare them to others, especially not their siblings. This is another very common mistake that almost all parents make, usually unintentionally. When one sibling happens to perform better than the other academically, phrases like, “Your sister never had any problem with this,” tend to slip out without us really noticing what we’re saying.
Do be mindful of what you say to, or around, them, being careful not to send messages that they are unliked or unwanted. This relates very closely to being attentive, but this time, it’s about the words you use. Statements like, “I can’t take it anymore,” and, “I don’t want to deal with this right now,” are actually quite hurtful, and they are said surprisingly often in emotional situations. Language like this could make your kids feel like they are a burden, a concept which they are still too young to understand or appreciate. Instead, take a deep breath, and give them a big hug.
Do be affectionate towards them. For the vast majority of people, affection equals love, and love is essential to developing a positive self-image.
Do give positive feedback when your child succeeds, or even just tries, but don’t hand out empty praise. As important as praise is, it’s just as important that your child be competent. If you praise them no matter what they do, they have little motivation to try harder or challenge themselves further.
Do give them more responsibility, such as age appropriate chores or allowing them to make some of their own decisions. Encourage them to be more involved in more constructive experiences where they can interact and problem-solve. By doing so, you empower them, and embed within them the belief that they are both capable and useful. Not only that, but you also encourage and teach them to be more independent.
Above all, do be a positive role model. Be the person you want your kids to be.
*Even though these are all simple and straightforward tips, sometimes they are just not enough. If you feel that your child is suffering from low self-esteem and you are unable to help them, consider consulting with a professional who will be able to point you in the right direction.