We all want our kids to feel good about themselves. We want them to be confident, accepted, and willing to try new things, as well as successfully cope with mistakes and setbacks. That’s all part of self-esteem. Self-esteem is the opinion that we hold about ourselves. It’s a measure of how much we value ourselves and how worthy we feel.
Kids with healthy self-esteem make great decisions, even when we’re not around. They are able to have healthy relationships with others because they are in a healthy relationship with themselves.
Kids with low self-esteem are critical of themselves and others, focus on the things they’ve failed at, lack confidence, and doubt that things will go well. These kids are at higher risk for engaging in risky behaviors.
Parents have a major impact on their kid’s self-esteem. Here are 9 simple ways you can build healthy self-esteem in your kids (in no particular order).
Let them do things their way
Learning to do things on their own is an important part of kids building self-esteem, even if you know there is an easier way. Let them do it, and don’t redo it when they’re done.
Give real praise for effort, progress, and attitude. Kids can sense hollow praise like “you played such a great game” when they know that they didn’t. So, praise the fact that they didn’t give up, even though it wasn’t their best game. And, avoid praising results like winning the game or getting an A, as that can lead to pressure and anxiety over time.
Let Your Kids See You Struggle
We can model staying positive in the face of challenges by letting our kids see us struggle. Find places in your life where you can show them how you are making mistakes, starting over, or working through setbacks. Show them that you can feel great about yourself, especially at the steep stages of a learning curve when things feel hard.
Let them Quit
We often want kids to ‘see things through’ because it ‘builds character’ and we ‘don’t want them to give up when things get hard.’ The sentiment is in the right place, but for many kids, this motto prevents them from trying new things or taking risks. Why try something new if they don’t feel like they can stop if they don’t like it? By allowing kids to quit, you show them that it is safe to try new things.
Choose Your Words Wisely
If we’re not careful with our words, kids can translate our messages into negative feelings about themselves. “You’re so disrespectful” is not the same as “your tone of voice is not respectful.” The first comments about the person and negatively impacts self-esteem. The second comments on their language which can be easily changed. Focus on the action or behavior that you want corrected so your child doesn’t think that their mere existence is the problem.
Give Future-Focused Feedback
When giving feedback, highlight what went well and then show how it can be better next time. Staying focused on the future, rather than rehashing the past, builds agency; we can’t change the past, but we can change the future.
Provide Opportunities to Say No
Feeling like you have some control over your actions is called a sense of agency. At home, create opportunities for kids to say yes or no without pressure or consequence. Maybe there is a task they can complete for some form of payment. Approach the opportunity as a contract and ask if they would like to enter the contract, negotiate terms, and ultimately say yes or no. Learning to say no is fundamental to establishing healthy boundaries and building self-worth.
Play games that are designed for fast losing and fast winning. Play multiple rounds quickly so that the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are quick. Games like Connect 4 and Jenga work well. Focus on the joy and fun you are having together, not whether you won or lost. Click here for Family Game Night suggestions.
Have 1:1 time
Schedule 1:1 time with each child. Even ten minutes of your undivided attention has a massive impact on their feelings of belonging and connection with you. Knowing that we are loved underpins all elements of self-esteem and self-worth. This also gives you time to really listen to what’s going on in your child’s life.
Boosting your child’s self-esteem is not only important but also fun and easy to do. Please let us know what you’re already doing or feel inspired to start doing in the comments below.