Jenny's Fact Sheet: Building self esteem in children
Fact Sheet: Jenny Hale - Building self esteem in children
If we could buy self esteem, it would be a best seller. Most parents are very keen for their children to develop confidence and self belief. There was a time when parents believed that as long as they 'praised' their kids up enough - they would develop a good view of themselves and it would be that easy. That one back fired - children became totally dependent on being noticed and rewarded, and on being praised for things that were very unpraise worthy. So much so - that they lost confidence if no one was saying anything about how well they were doing.
Parents sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that they can slap on self worth like a plaster. It needs to go a bit deeper than that.
So how do we do it - here are 4 easy things parents can do to help 'build' self esteem in their kids.
1. Tell them specifically what they are doing well
If they have been patient, caring, thoughtful or acted bravely, your kids want to know. Being general is easy but children won't know exactly what it is that you would like them to repeat. So tell them.
"Kate, you have remembered to get started on your homework all by yourself this week. Great initiative!"
"Thank you Samuel for waiting for Mummy to finish on the phone. You were being patient."
"I noticed that you turned the television off without me needing to remind you at all. Well done for getting on with it."
2. Let them become 'problem solvers'
It is easy to let children feel that they have mucked up and that mistakes are serious. We often want to teach them a lesson but can easily end up making them feel like they are problems. Next time your child comes to you and has made a mistake - turn it around. Maybe they have just spilt their cup of juice all over the kitchen floor.
You could say "How many times have I told you to sit down when you have a drink? Now I have got to clean up this mess?" That just confirms to them that they are silly or a nuisance or a problem.
Or you could say....
"Oh dear, we have a problem here - lots of orange juice on the floor. What needs to happen here Michael?"
Children respond when they are invited to be a problem solver. It tells them that mistakes happen and mistakes can be fixed. They learn to label themselves differently. 'Opps, I might ask for help pouring the juice next time." I am not a problem - but I can rethink things and find a better way. I am a problem solver!
3. Tell others - the fancy name for this is 'Referential praise'
Children thrive when they hear their parents speak well of them in their hearing but especially in the presence of other adults. You may think your child is busy watching television but actually he is listening to you tell your friend how delighted you are that he has made a new friend at school or how hard she has been trying at gymnastics. When you share the good news - your child grows into the picture of that child who is learning to share well, or help in the kitchen or persevere in the cross country.
It is easy to do the opposite of this - to moan and grump about how little Jonny is testing you all the time and how he is a constant source of irritation. Little Jonny take this on board and it confirms to him that he is a bother - just like he thought.
4. Love them solidly
Not easy - especially when they press our buttons or remind us of someone annoying - even ourselves. Children have one very important question that needs answering - 'Do you love me for who I am?' or can I persuade you that I am not that loveable after all?
Some of the obstacles in the way of parents fully loving their kids are;
The big difference in personality - too sensitive, bossy, quiet, intense, hesitant - all of these traits can rub us up the wrong way
The leaning towards interests that are not ones we like - sporty, non sporty, crafts, books, cricket....
Their looks, likes, intensity, intelligence, role in the family - all of these play a part.
Children need to be loved very solidly - despite who they are and parents need to get over their own prejudices.
Tell them you love them. Show them you love them. Spend time with them. Be affectionate. Find out what is unique about them so that they know you have observed and noticed!