Creating a confident base in early childhood can build better self-esteem later in life, but you may not realize that you play a big role in fostering this positivity. Your child looks to you for cues that help them form their own self-image.
While you’re tripping over yourself trying to make sure your child has all the latest toys and clothes, keep in mind that a “positive sense of self is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child,” says Parents.com. Let’s look at seven simple ways to help your child value themselves…
1. Give them (Easy) Choices
You may be in a pattern of making choices on behalf of your child to save time and to get things done, and there are many cases where this is pretty much the only option. However, Parents.com notes there are some situations where you can make your child feel more important by putting the decision in their hands.
One easy way to this is at the breakfast table, it notes, for example, giving them the choice between eggs or pancakes. “Learning to make simple choices while he’s young will help prepare your child for the more difficult choices he’ll face as he grows,” adds the source.
2. Give Proper Praise
Your instinct may be to praise your child for everything they do…because they’re the smartest kid in the world, right? (So is everyone else’s kid!). And while we don’t doubt your child is awesome, you can actually be doing them a disservice by telling them that too often.
KidsHealth.org notes that “over-praising” may not feel earned by the child, and they might start to doubt your sincerity. The source gives an example of a child that has a lousy game. Let’s say they missed a few chances to score a goal—that is told they played well. “It’s better to say, ‘I know that wasn’t your best performance, but we all have off days. I’m proud of you for not giving up,'” offers the source.
3. Let Them Take Small Risks
Building confidence is all about your kids clearing small hurdles—on their own. That means you shouldn’t rush in every time you think your kid needs help, notes Today’s Parent magazine.
The article gives an example of a mom that watches her child lift a jug of pop on their own. Instead of rushing over to avoid a mishap, she held her breath and let him pour it into a glass (which he promptly missed). But the kicker is that her son flagged down a waitress to ask for paper towel and did the cleanup himself, which is a big step in taking charge of a situation.
4. Help Them Benefit From Failure
Trying something and not getting it right the first time can be enough for your child to want to crawl under the blankets and not try it again (this is true for many adults too). However, it’s important to remind your child that they didn’t fail; they learned something.
“Never tell a child he has failed, let you down or cannot succeed,” offers More-SelfEsteem.com. It urges you to become a “mentor,” not a judge, and teach them how to believe in themselves and that success can take time.
5. Show Them How to Accept Others
Your kid is constantly trying to navigate the world of other’s opinions, and that’s not easy. However, you can teach them from an early age not to judge others based on their social status, appearance or orientation because that behavior is “preaching hate to your kid,” explains Care.com.
When your child is more accepting of others, they may be more confident in standing up for themselves or others who become targets of bullying, it adds. “Confident children don’t necessarily tell off bullies, but they choose to include the underdog,” it explains.
6. Don’t Project Your Insecurities
WebMD reminds you that you may be doing small things that are actually a result of your own lack of self-esteem, not your child’s. For example, the source gives an example of a child that doesn’t make the school’s orchestra and the mom was ready to have it out with the school.
However, it turns out the rejection wasn’t as big a deal to her child, who ended up as a respected member of a French club. The mother couldn’t understand how the child coped so well with the disappointment, but realized it was her own disappointment and not the child’s.
7. Remind Them Your Love is Unconditional
Your child may be worried their lack of successes or less-than-stellar choices may mean you aren’t proud of them, or that you will somehow love them less. “If all you talk about is performance,” explains Today’s Parent magazine, “she will think you only love her for her report card or the lead she got in the play.”
The important thing is to remind your child that you’ll always love them, regardless of their successes and failures. The source also encourages you to let your kids find their own special talents, set their own goals and help them see them through to fruition, which will likely be a lot easier when they know they have your unwavering support.