We want our kids to believe in themselves and their abilities, to have the strength to take on difficult things and have a good attitude, regardless of the end result. After all, we instinctively know that a healthy self-esteem is vital for their future, mentally, socially and emotionally. But how do you work on building your child’s confidence and sense of self?
“Great job! You’re so smart!” While these affirmations roll off the tongue of any proud parent, it’s essential to focus on praising the effort rather than the result. Some things will come quickly to your kids, while others will take more time. Comments like “You worked really hard on that” or “I like how you drew that picture” affirm the effort and determination involved and subtly reinforce the idea that most goals require practice and patience.
Kids are so hands-on when they’re young, but no parent dreams of acting like a personal maid even past early a child’s elementary years. There’s a temptation to do everything for them, especially when they’re dragging their feet and whining, but this will create an over-reliance on others. Instead, empower them to take care of themselves and pitch in around the house with simple, age-appropriate tasks. Responsibilities like keeping their rooms clean, their bags packed for school and helping prepare meals can help kids realize that they’re capable and competent.
This is a tough one for most parents. We want to swoop in and save the day when our kids are confronted with something hard. But if they don’t have a chance to experience difficulties and defeat when they’re young, they’ll be ill-prepared to manage these challenges when they’re older. Show them how to bounce back from failure and disappointments, how to keep trying, and they’ll get a taste of the satisfaction you get when they finally reach success. They’re more likely to believe in themselves if they have the tools to handle a range of different situations.
Be your kids’ biggest fan! Let your children know that nothing they do—or don’t do—will affect how you feel about them. Avoid acting let down or upset when things haven’t gone their way, especially if you know they’ve made a reasonable effort. Help them feel secure in whatever the outcome is because they know you’ll be in their corner either way. They’ll look to you to congratulate them on an awesome accomplishment or to show them what they need to work on next time.
If your kids hear you being down on yourself before a tough task, acting discouraged or engaging in negative self-talk, they may begin to emulate your attitudes. It’s human to feel overwhelmed when obstacles are ahead, so there’s no need to adopt a sense of false positivity. Instead, be open about your fears and frustrations in an age-appropriate manner, making a point to also talk about what you’ll do to get around them. Discuss your strategies, who you’ll approach for help, and the feeling of accomplishment once you’re done. Practice a positive outlook when faced with challenges – it’s good for you too. Who knows, you might even surprise yourself!
Putting these strategies into practice will help your child build their confidence and increase their self-esteem. Like all good things, it will take work, but it will be time well spent!