No parent ever wants to see their child suffer from low self-esteem, which can happen when a child may give up mid-way through completing an activity, is too afraid to try, or becomes frustrated easily when they don’t win. Children with high self-esteem feel valued and accepted, and have a positive perspective on themselves and everyday challenges. As parents, it is our privilege to fill that void, and further their development by raising your child’s self-esteem so they will become both prosperous and mentally healthy in the future while being able to handle life’s challenges as adults.
The Two Types Of Praising: Global Vs. Specific
Child psychologists have determined there are two types of praising parents often show their children: global and specific. Global praise is foundationless and considered filling the child with ‘hot air,’ as it is a generic form of praising where the child does not fully know or understand what they are being praised for. For instance, simply telling your child they are smart or kind, is admirable. However, the child may not fully grasp what for or how to replicate those actions to receive the same praise in the future. Specific is the foundation building blocks for self-esteem, as the parent praises the child for something they specifically accomplished, such as congratulating them on a good effort for trying skating for the first time or for acing a test they studied hard for.
The Problem With Global Praising
The backlash for giving lots of global praise can result in the child feeling doubtful about themselves and their abilities, and can even cause them to question their capabilities. It causes the child to either give up half-way through completing an activity or with the child not even attempting the task at all. This is the result of global praising as the child will begin to believe they are only worthy when they win or do something that is considered right, so they can become undone when they don’t win and achieve the same results as before. Hence, the child becomes confused on how to replicate the same action from before to receive praise from their parents.
Why Specific Praising Is The Route To Take
Specific praising - which is recommended by child psychologists as the right way to praise children - focuses on the details, the effort, and challenges the child had to overcome to achieve their goal and receive positive praises from their parent. Specific praising fills in the gaps for the child as to why they are receiving praise and how they can replicate it in the future. For instance, try saying, “I know you didn’t win this week, but you scored two more goals than last week because you practiced more this week!” rather than the global praise of “I know you didn’t win, but you’ll win next time.” Specific praising teaches a child that working hard, being responsible, and doing what is deemed ‘good’ is a great thing, and therefore they do not need others to know they’ve done an excellent job, as they can see it themselves. Compared to global praise, being specific also teaches children there is nothing wrong with failure, as failure is what teaches them about success - a fundamental skill they will need as an adult.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
If your child comes to you to discuss a self-esteem issue, bullying, or about anything they may be feeling during this time, it is essential you hear them out and listen to why they are feeling the way they do. Listening to what they are feeling will help you identify the underlying problem and offer an effective solution. Reassure them it is okay for them to be experiencing these emotions and that it is healthy to talk about it with a trusted adult or peer to find a solution to their problem and be able to solve it, thus moving on in life. Comforting your child and talking about these issues with them will help make the problem seem less daunting, teach your child healthy ways to cope with challenges in life, and show them how to communicate and problem solve efficiently as they get older.
Avoid Comparisons & Perfectionism
Nothing makes a child feel more terrible about themselves than hearing they are not worthy, valued, good enough, or that their sibling is superior in some way, shape, or form. By eliminating comparisons, you will be able to effectively increase your child’s self-esteem and minimize sibling rivalry. If anything, parents should be strengthening the bond between siblings, and equally praising each child for their strengths, rather than capitalizing on their weakness in comparison to their sibling. Also, parents should minimize the need for perfectionism or for having their child reach an obscenely high standard. By comforting your child and letting them know mistakes are okay and can happen, you can eliminate any unnecessary stress and anxiety the child may be experiencing in order to please you and receive praise.
Debunk Inaccurate Beliefs They May Have
Similar to perfectionism, children tend to be pretty harsh on themselves when they don’t accomplish something they have set their mind to, especially when trying something new; this can take a significant toll on their confidence. As a parent, it is our role to offer the child a more optimistic and objective view of the standards they set for themselves, which can efficiently turn their thoughts around to a more positive perspective. For instance, if your child is constantly telling you they are an awful student because they are not good at a particular subject, try reassuring them that they are an excellent student, they just need to spend a bit more time improving on that particular subject. It can also help to make a comprehensive plan with your child, such as setting aside extra study time for this subject, so they can observe their improvement and also know their parent is supporting them with this specific struggle.
Reinforce Love & Positivity At Home
The best way to build positive self-esteem for your child is to start at home. With a few changes, you can create a safe haven for your child that will boost their self-esteem and teach them to be kind to others, as well as to help those who may also be struggling with confidence issues. Also, offer nothing but unconditional love to your child. It may sound like common sense, but it can work wonders for their mental health and view on what a healthy relationship is. It is significantly easier for a child to overcome challenges if there is a constant, positive support system at home, by reminding them you will be there through the good and bad moments and that you love them regardless of the mistakes they may make. They will be able to cope more effectively with obstacles in their path and be willing to reciprocate this love given to them onto others, resulting in a more confident, kind, and loving person.
Help Them Learn New Things
Beyond the baby stage, children crave structure and stability within their lives. However, as your tot becomes a child, allow them to do things in their unique way once in a while as they learn how to do new things, as this reinforces independence, responsibility, and creativity within them. Provide your child with opportunities to try and learn new activities - ranging from easy to difficult - that challenge them to develop further as a person. From the basics of learning to hold a spoon and feed themselves, to learning how to read or ride a bike, lead by example by showing them how to do the activity, then allow them to interpret the way they see fit and try it for themselves. This can be somewhat hard for those of us who like to control, well, everything. However, allowing them to learn their way will build their sense of responsibility and independence while also telling them that you have confidence in them and their capabilities.
Let Them Think For Themselves!
Allow your child to feel empowered by giving them choices, within a reasonable set of options you have selected. For example, offer your child the choice of either cereal or eggs for breakfast. Letting them make simple decisions for themselves not only prepares your child to make more difficult choices they will face as adults but also allows them to build their independence and accountability. It also shows your child there are consequences for their actions while teaching them the essential life skill of being accountable for the decisions they make. Rather than you just predetermining what they will do, which could result in the child becoming dependent on you to clean up the mess they made based on their choices.
Celebrate Their Successes At Home & In Front Of Other Adults
Regardless of whether they’ve learned how to swim or have completed their homework, praise your child in a specific manner and commend them for a job well done no matter the specific achievement. When a child sees how proud of them you are, they will begin to take pride in themselves and continue to strive to not only make you proud but themselves in the future. It is also valuable to praise your child around other adults and not just at home. When we compliment our kids, they tend to take it with a grain of salt, however, whenever you tell a friend or relative about your child’s achievements, they tend to be more receptive to the praise. Humblebrag about your children to others, as you are proving you’re not just saying it to make them feel good, but rather because you genuinely believe in them. By doing this small act, you can dramatically improve your child’s self-esteem, and even make them believe in the kind words you are saying.
Be The Role Model They Need
It’s no secret children observe and copy everything their parents do, yes, even the bad stuff too. So, it’s essential you provide your child with an exceptional role model to look up to. No, this does not mean you have to be perfect or that you should beat yourself up if you make a mistake in front of them. Remember, you’re learning how to parent your child as well, as every child is unique and deserves a different approach, depending on their needs. For instance, a parent who calls themselves stupid or who doesn’t try to tackle challenges will result in their child being likelier to follow in their footsteps and develop a poor sense of worth. Look at this as an opportunity to not only build your child’s confidence but boost your own, while also bonding.
To be an effective role model, it is crucial you spend one-on-one time with your child, whether it is just grabbing a bite to eat, going to the store, or reading a book together. Try to schedule alone time with your child at least once a week. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to get to know each other more in depth and talk about what’s on the child’s mind, but it also cements the deep bond you two share.