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Building children’s self-esteem

Building children’s self-esteem is an important role of parenting.

Self-esteem is the way children think, see and feel about themselves. Positive self-esteem develops when children have a healthy relationship with their parents and caregivers and feel capable, independent and accepted by others. When children develop positive self-esteem, they are more likely to reach out when they need help and develop resiliency skills. Children who develop resiliency are better able to navigate situations with peers as well as cope with bullying and teasing.

Parents can build self-esteem by:

  • Validating children’s feelings no matter what they are. Validating feelings will allow children to trust their own feelings and be more likely to listen to them. Avoid the temptation to tell your children that their feelings are wrong. Don’t say statements like “you are not scared” or “there is no reason to be afraid.” If they have the feeling, name it for them (“I see you are feeling really sad that you couldn’t have the cookie”) and then show genuine empathy (“It is disappointing when we don’t get what we want”).
  • Accept them as they are. Children are constantly developing and changing. They perceive far more than we realize. If you are struggling with your child, get support and deal with your feelings. It is important that we constantly assess our own feelings. If you feel persistently negative about your child, it is critical that you get support you need.
  • Don’t compare your child to others (especially their siblings). All people, and especially children are unique. It’s important to make children feel special. The more special we make them feel, the more likely they are to surround themselves with other people who appreciate their individualism. This is especially true as they get older and are most impacted by their peer group.
  • Know that feelings may change day-to-day, hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute. Our job is to listen and reflect back their feelings (“You are feeling really frustrated you could not do that by yourself” or “ You are feeling really good about the “A” you got on your test”) so they develop the ability to understand their own feelings.
  • Create a special time with your child to remind them of what makes them special and truly unique. Create opportunities to do things that they excel in or love. This is especially important to remember as they get older. If your child hates sports and does not excel competitively–that’s ok. Forcing children to engage in activities for a prolonged period of time where they do not feel competent can be detrimental to the way they view themselves. Try to balance activities that are hard with those in which they excel.

Remember that building self-esteem will improve the way children view themselves and helps build their social and emotional world.

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