August 08, 2008

Building self-esteem in your child

A very informative article. I benefited heaps from reading it and it helped me change a lot of my parenting techniques. Needless to say, I have seen an improvement and I am glad that I came across this article sooner than later. Sometimes we tend to do things a certain way which seems right to us but little do we realise the damage we are causing which doesn't become apparent until it's too late. So gentle reminders such as these from time to time can help us stay focused and keep us on track.

Building self-esteem in your child

A feeling of self-worth lays the foundation for your child's future as he sets out to try new things on his own. "Self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we're capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile," says California family therapist
Jane Nelsen.

"As any parent knows, self-esteem is a fleeting experience," says Nelsen. "Sometimes we feel good about ourselves and sometimes we don't. What we are really trying to teach our kids are life skills like resiliency." Your goal as a parent is to ensure that your child develops pride and self-respect — in himself and in his cultural roots — as well as faith in his ability to handle life's challenges.

Here are ten simple strategies to help boost your child's self-esteem:

  • Give unconditional love - A child's self-esteem flourishes with the kind of no-strings-attached devotion that says, "I love you, no matter who you are or what you do." Your child benefits the most when you accept him for who he is regardless of his strengths, difficulties, temperament, or abilities. So, lavish him with love. When you do have to correct your child, make it clear that it's his *behavior *— not him — that's unacceptable. Label the behavior, NOT the child!
  • Pay attention- Carve out time to give your child your undivided attention. That does wonders for your child's feelings of self-worth because it sends the message that you think he's important and valuable. Make eye contact so it's clear that you're really listening to what he's saying.
  • Teach limits - Establish a few reasonable rules for your child. Knowing that certain family rules are set in stone will help him feel more secure. Just be clear and consistent and show him that you trust him and expect him to do the right thing.
  • Support healthy risks -Encourage your child to explore something new. Let your child safely experiment, and resist the urge to intervene. You'll build his self-esteem by balancing your need to protect him with his need to tackle new tasks.
  • Let mistakes happen - The flip side, of course, of having choices and taking risks is that sometimes your child is bound to make mistakes. Acknowledging and recovering from your mistakes sends a powerful message to your child— it makes it easier for your child to accept his own difficulties.
  • Celebrate the positive - Everyone responds well to encouragement, so make an effort to acknowledge the good things your child does every day within his earshot. Be specific, for eg: Instead of saying "Good job," say, "Thank you for setting the table for dinner." This will enhance his sense of accomplishment and self-worth and let him know exactly what he did right.
  • Listen well - If your child needs to talk, stop and listen to what he has to say. He needs to know that his thoughts, feelings, desires, and opinions matter. By accepting his emotions without judgment, you validate his feelings and show that you value what he has to say.
  • Resist comparisons - Comments such as "Why can't you be more like your brother?" or "Why can't you be nice like Evan?" will just remind your child of where he struggles in a way that fosters shame, envy, and competition. Even positive comparisons, such as "You're the best player" are potentially damaging because a child can find it hard to live up to this image. If you let your child know that you appreciate him for the unique individual he is, he'll be more likely to value himself too.
  • Offer empathy - If your child compares himself unfavorably to his siblings or peers show him empathy and then emphasize one of his strengths. This can help your child learn that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that he doesn't have to be perfect to feel good about himself.
  • Provide encouragement- Encouragement means acknowledging progress — not just rewarding achievement. So if your child is struggling with a math problem, say: "You're trying very hard and you almost have it!" instead of "Not like that. Let me do it."

There's a difference between praise and encouragement. One rewards the task while the other rewards the person. Praise can make a child feel that he's only "good" if he does something perfectly. Encouragement, on the other hand, acknowledges the effort. Too much praise can sap self-esteem because it can create pressure to perform and set up a continual need for approval from others. So dole out the praise judiciously and offer encouragement liberally; it will help your child grow up to feel good about himself.

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