A strong self-esteem is the foundation for success in many areas of life – social, educational, athletic, and career pursuits. In addition, a healthy and positive self-image may help protect children from abusing drugs and alcohol, entering into unhealthy relationships, and engaging in delinquent behavior as they grow up. Below are some effective ways to help your child become happy, self-assured, and successful:
• Offer sincere encouragement and praise: While children need encouragement, your child can get so accustomed to hearing "Good job!" so frequently that he may have a hard time realizing when his accomplishments are really worth celebrating. Do not praise your child if he does something that he is supposed to do like taking out the trash or throwing his pants into the hamper. In these instances, a simple "thank you" is sufficient. However, when your child accomplishes something great like winning the annual science fair, praise is definitely in order.
• Focus on positive solutions: If your children feel defeated by disappointments, help them be more optimistic by encouraging them to think about specific ways to improve a situation and bring them closer to their goals. If your child is crushed because he did not get on the starting line-up on his basketball team, help him come up with a plan for how he can increase the chances of getting the position he wants next time.
• Nurture special interests: Expose your child to a wide variety of activities, and encourage him when he finds something he really loves. Children who have a passion feel proud of their expertise and are more likely to be successful in other areas of their life. Hobbies may be particularly helpful for children who have a hard time fitting in at school to connect with other kids. For example, if your son likes to draw but most of the boys in his class like sports, encourage him to do sports drawings.
• Look for ways to help others: When children feel like they are making a contribution, they feel more confident. While it's important for children to have household responsibilities, it may be even more empowering for them to assist others. So, look for volunteer opportunities such as helping at an animal shelter, taking cookies to a nursing home, or picking up trash around their school.
• Promote problem-solving: Children gain confidence when they are able to achieve their goals by coming up with solutions to the challenges they face. The key is to allow your child to come up with the best solution to the challenge herself while guiding her through the process. If your child comes to you and complains that another child took her ball on the playground, ask what she thinks would be a good way to get it back. Even if her first idea is to get it back by force, ask her what she thinks might happen if she did. Then ask, "Can you think of other ways to get it back so that doesn't happen?"
From forming healthy relationships to choosing to ignore peer pressure, a healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things parents can help their children develop. By guiding them through their challenges, and providing opportunities for success your children will gain the confidence and independence to take care of themselves.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 30 years of professional experience. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or comments.