Here are my top tips for helping your children develop real and enduring self-esteem.
Build a positive relationship with your child. Prioritise having fun together, enjoy their company and be interested in learning who your child is. You still have to set boundaries and provide a supervisory role, but ensure your child feels secure, accepted and valued within your family. A helpful guide is 80% of your interactions should be positive and only 20% disciplinary or instructional.
Help your children become actively involved in life by socialising and having hobbies rather than staying home watching TV, playing on computers and avoiding “life”. Children thrive when they feel connected to others, and are developing relationships and interests with like-minded people.
Develop competence in different areas of life (that might be sport, creative writing, making friends, cooking, art – in fact any area of life). Nobody is good at everything, but if we feel sufficiently competent in a number of areas of life, we usually feel OK about our ability to function in the world. Find out what your child enjoys and give them opportunities to practice and build up their skills and competence.
Develop resilience so your child can cope with life’s ups and downs. Teach them that difficulties are normal and help us learn rather than a reflection on their own self-worth. This means helping your child to face challenges rather than avoid them. It is your child’s experience of coping, persevering, overcoming and mastering difficult situations, that is the basis of real and enduring confidence.
Teach your children to problem solve, but don’t do it for them. Solve problems together and teach them how to think flexibly so they can begin to work out their own solutions to problems. This will give them a feeling of control and optimism when things don’t go to plan.
You are your children’s role model, so consider your own behaviour in the face of challenges. Do you give up, avoid difficult situations and blame others or do you persevere, learn from your mistakes and find solutions.
Support your child to cope when struggling but don’t rescue. We all want to protect our children from feeling sad or worried, but if we protect them from everything that is uncomfortable, they will never learn that they can handle difficult feelings. Teach them to recognise and name their emotions, listen and understand and help them to cope.
Praise and celebrate effort and perseverance more than achievement.
Let your children know it’s healthy to make mistakes or fail and that this is how successful people learn.
Help your children develop positive and healthy thinking styles. Challenge negative and pessimistic thoughts by looking for alternative explanations for challenges. Help them see that there are many ways to view a situation and with the right attitude, they can help themselves feel and cope better.
Nicola is an experienced Clinical Psychologist. She is particularly interested in helping children and parents develop warm, responsive and positive relationships that provide the foundations for self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.
Nicola is one of the authors of Brighter Futures….