As parents, we all want the same thing. We want our children to be happy. We want our children to be healthy. We want our children to love and be loved. We want to teach them to be good people, and that, for the most part; the world is kind.
Problem is: how do we protect our children from the inevitable? How do we teach them to ignore and avoid bullies—to rise above the cruelty among us? How can we instill in our children to love themselves and radiate the self-esteem and self-worth we hope they will carry forever?
It scares the crap out of me that one day kinda soon I’ll have to send my children to school knowing I cannot protect them from falling down or getting their feelings hurt.
I believe in positive reinforcement—always. In doing so, my hope is that my sons will establish the confidence they’ll need to successfully and happily live a fulfilling life.
But I’m no expert. I’m just a mom doing the best I can. So I turned to a trusted friend and innovative entrepreneur, Maia Haag, founder of ISeeMe.com.
The mission of I See Me! is to build self-esteem in children by celebrating the uniqueness of each child. They offer fantastic personalized books allowing kids to star in their own stories.
Maia shared with me 10 ways parents can help their kids establish and maintain self-confidence. Here is her insight.
1. Recognize your child’s small and large successes. Children develop self-esteem gradually as a result of experiencing a series of successes due to effort and persistence. They begin to convert those successes into statements about themselves. Telling your child that she is smart may be a nice thing to say, but pointing out something that she has done that shows she is smart gives her the “proof” that she needs to internalize this belief.
2. Give praise when it is deserved, without overdoing it. Giving empty praise or a ribbon for no effort will not be meaningful. A true sense of self-worth comes from trying, failing, trying again and succeeding.
3. When your child fails, emphasize the effort that your child put in, not the outcome. If your child doesn’t make a sports team, for example, tell him that you’re proud of the effort that he put into it. Learning to apply effort and be persistent are skills that can be applied to all areas of life.
4. When your child misbehaves, respond by saying that she “made a bad choice.” This gives her the power to make the right choice next time. Avoid making statements such as, “You always misbehave” because they negatively define the core of your child’s identity.
5. Recognize when your child makes negative statements about himself or herself. If your child struggles with math and makes a generalized statement such as, “I can’t do math,” respond by saying, “You do well in school when you work hard. Math is a subject that you may need to spend more time on.”
6. Resist comparing one child to another in the family. Asking, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” will eventually lead to a lowered sense of self-worth. Emphasize what makes your child unique.
7. Show encouragement in many areas of your child’s life. If you only focus on grades your child may begin to believe that he’s only as good as his grades.
8. Maintain a positive home environment. If you and your spouse are constantly arguing your child may not feel that she has control over her environment and begin to feel helpless.
9. Volunteer with your child. When your child helps another person it contributes to his own sense of self-worth.
10. Be affectionate with your child. Give hugs and frequently say, “I love you.” If your child knows that your love is constant your child will have the courage to try new things without fear of failure. (Personal note: I love this article on the importance of affection.)