Developing a healthy sense of self doesn't happen overnight. In fact, for many people, improving self-esteem can be a lifelong project. It's essential to plant the seeds of self-esteem early so that children are aware of their own unique strengths as they grow.
When children have high self-esteem they are more likely to perform better in school, take healthy risks, be more assertive and enjoy reciprocal friendships with their peers. They also cope with the ups and downs of everyday life more independently and have an easier time resisting peer pressure.
Building self-esteem isn't as simple as cheering, "Great job!" each time your little artist shares her latest masterpiece. In fact, it's quite the opposite. While young children often seek validation from their parents, vague statements do little to boost their self-worth. What they really need is time spent together, specifics and the freedom to pursue their individual interests.
Young children are likely to experience a variety of feelings on any given day. Their emotions shift quickly as they process new information and experiences. The problem is that many children simply do not have the language to accurately express those emotions. When emotions are internalized, self-esteem decreases. Consider creating a feelings faces poster for your kitchen. Talk with your child about how different emotions affect us and what that might look like. Give your child the vocabulary to accurately identify her feelings so that she can release them as they arise.
Find individual strengths
We all know that all children are individuals, but sometimes individuality gets lost when children begin to conform to the strengths of their peers. This norming process is all part of growing up, but some children feel stuck when they are unable to assert their own needs. Help your child explore her own strengths. Watch different classes and sports before enrolling and look through brochures together. If you have a quiet child who enjoys downtime, team sports might not be the way to go. Remind your child of her unique strengths and try to avoid pushing certain activities simply because a sibling or friend enjoys them.
When we praise a finished product or the final score of the game we are only praising the end result. When we focus on the end result, children hyper-focus on seeking perfection. Talk about pressure! Praise actions instead of the end result. The next time your child shows off her latest masterpiece respond with, "Wow! I love the way you used so many different colors to create a garden!" A simple shift in the way we offer praise lets our children know that their efforts and choices are important.
Create special time
When children have special time with their parents they have the opportunity to bond, strengthen the parent/child relationship and speak without interruption. The best things you can do to help your child build self-esteem are to be available and to listen. Put away that phone, let the dishes wait and just be present.