How we feel about ourselves at a young age strongly impacts how stable we are for the rest of our lives. In order to develop into their best selves, kids need to feel confident that they can be who they are without unnecessary criticism or judgement. While we don’t want to reinforce bad behavior, we do want to teach kids that it’s ok to make mistakes, and help them feel positive. So how can we help children develop healthy levels of self-esteem? Here are some tips.
One way a child’s self-esteem can be negatively affected is by comparison to other children around them. We probably don’t think much of comments like, “Katie is pretty, and Jessica is smart”, but what Katie may glean from that is that she isn’t smart, and Jessica may think she isn’t pretty. It’s better to avoid any comparison of kids, in order to help them establish who they are free of limitations.
Teach to empower, not to lecture
The best teachers are those who teach us how to continue learning without a teacher. When kids feel that they can do things for themselves, they’re more motivated and generally more successful in life. Help your children to feel competent, and strengthen their confidence in their own abilities.
Highlight children’s strengths
The way kids are treated helps them determine who they become—if you treat a child as though they’re smart, they’ll want to continue trying to be smart. Inversely, if you treat them like “the bad kid” (even if that is how they are!) they’re likely to continue acting like the bad kid. Always try to showcase the skills of each child—it’ll help them want to continue expanding and using those skills.
Kids need to feel accepted and valued, but there comes a point when praise can be detrimental to their success and self-esteem. Overpraising can lead to children feeling disappointed when their expectations and reality don’t align. Give praise where praise is due, but don’t dish it out just for the sake of it. Children need to accept realities in order to function well in life, so make sure they don’t think they’re too limitless!
Remember the importance of discipline
In order to cultivate healthy self-esteem, kids need to be able to be disciplined. If they grow up without it, they may feel dependent even as adults, and suffer in various life situations. Help children learn the value of being disciplined, without being overly harsh or critical when they fall short.
Always be supportive
Always being supportive doesn’t mean agreeing with everything a child says, or allowing them to run wild simply because they want to—it means always letting them know that you care about them and want the best for them. Listening is a vital part of being appropriately supportive, and we could all probably do with listening more than we currently do. Even if you must “rebuke” a child for bad behavior, do so in a way that still shows care and love for them. Help them know that you believe in them, and watch the impact it has on their attitude.