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10 Secrets to Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem

esteemIt’s no secret that a healthy sense of self-esteem is an essential tool for navigating the adult world, but figuring out how to instill confidence in a child isn’t always easy. These ten secrets to building your child’s self-esteem are surprisingly simple, and can make a world of difference in the way she sees herself and handles everyday situations.

  1. Be Generous With Your Affection – In order to feel secure and confident, your child needs to know that she has your unconditional love and support. By building that all-important support system through affirmations of your affection and explaining to her that your love is not contingent upon her success or subject to change as a result of failure, she’ll have the confidence she needs to tackle new challenges without worrying that you’ll be disappointed in her if things don’t work out the way she planned.
  2. Praise Efforts, Not Accomplishments – When you lavish effusive praise on your child for her accomplishments but ignore the effort she expends to get there, you’re sending the message that the end result is the only thing that matters. Making the effort to show her how proud you are of her for trying her best places the emphasis where it needs to be: on her efforts.
  3. Pay Attention – It seems simple, but taking the time to listen to your child when she speaks and to absorb the details of her day lets her know that you’re truly invested in her life and that you care what she’s up to. Knowing that you value her opinion and are there to support her makes it easier for your child to approach new situations with confidence.
  4. Support Healthy Risks – Every instinct a parent has goes against allowing a child to do something that you’re sure will end in failure, but it’s important that you allow your child to make certain decisions on her own and support healthy risks. Knowing that you’re there to help her get back up and try again gives your child the strong self-esteem she’ll need to continue taking those risks, which are essential parts of growing up.
  5. Instill a Respect for Limits and Boundaries – Part of a strong sense of self-esteem is a feeling of security and support, which comes from having a clear understanding of the boundaries and limits within which she’s expected to operate. When your child knows what is and is not expected of her, she’s more able to confidently navigate acceptable situations, rather than approach them with trepidation because she’s not sure if they’re within the boundaries you’ve set for her.
  6. Let Her Make Mistakes – Failure may not seem like an effective tool for helping your child to build self-esteem, but it’s actually quite important for her to make mistakes that she can learn from in order to build a pool of experiences she can rely on for future decisions. Mistakes breed wisdom, and that knowledge allows your child to be confident when she’s faced with a similar situation in the future.
  7. Avoid Comparisons – Even if you’re trying to build your child up by comparing her to another, it’s never a good idea to draw comparisons between siblings or those within her peer group. Your child needs to know that she’s accepted and loved for who she is, not because she’s out-performing another child or in spite of the fact that she’s not as “good” as another.
  8. Set Goals Together – When a goal is set and subsequently reached, there’s a sense of accomplishment that does more for a person’s self-esteem than any kind words or flattery ever could. The same holds true for children. Helping your child set new goals and supporting her as she reaches them is a powerful confidence booster.
  9. Validate Her Feelings – Failure, mistakes and conflicts are integral experiences when it comes to building up knowledge and learning lessons, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t hurtful. Telling your child that she shouldn’t be upset because she “only lost a game” or “had a tiny fight with a friend” minimizes her feelings, making her wonder if they’re appropriate. Validating her feelings by letting her know that you’re aware of how she feels and that it’s okay to feel that way as long as she learns how to handle similar situations in the future can turn those negative situations into a learning experience.
  10. Model Confident Behavior – Your child learns more about how to interact with the world from watching and emulating the adults she loves and trusts than anything else. If you’re plagued by low self-esteem and aren’t confident in your ability to manage things, your child will mimic that behavior. In order to boost your child’s self-esteem, make sure that you’re working on your own.

Remember that your child needs to feel the sting of failure from time to time, and will need to experience some conflict in order to gain the important coping and conflict resolution skills she’ll use as an adult. Though it’s tempting to swoop in to save the day every time your child faces some hardship, it’s far better to offer your support as she works out the best ways of navigating those situations on her own. When she realizes that she’s capable of managing her own problems, it will create a self-esteem boost far more powerful than any you can give her with affirmations and encouragement.

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