Raising Children is difficult. Most parents want their children to have healthy self-esteem and a high level of confidence. The way children view themselves has an impact on how they function, how they relate to other people, and ultimately on their success in life.
So to help your children develop positive self-esteem, remember to show them
• that you love them unconditionally
• that you respect them as individuals and as important members of your family
• that you see them as capable people and value their contribution to your family life
• that you enjoy spending time with them
Show and tell your love for your children -Tell your children that you love them at random times, like when they seem a bit down and after any disciplinary action, not just at bedtime or when they are doing something you like. Show your love in what you do for your children, including hugs, kisses and cuddles.
Praise your child’s effort, more than the product – Congratulate your children on their efforts even if the end-result isn’t perfect. If you know your child has tried really hard, this is worth your recognition, regardless of whether or not the child achieved the goal. When praising your children, make it specific to what they have done, be sincere and don’t overdo it! Children will turn off praise if you tell them everything they do is fantastic.
Distinguish between the child and his/her behaviour – Try to separate the not-so-good behaviour from the child, and talk about the actual behaviour which is not acceptable. Eg. Instead of saying “You are so naughty”, say “Hitting your little sister was an unkind thing to do.” The same goes for acceptable behaviour. Say “I really appreciate you tidying up your bedroom today. That really helped me.” rather than “You’re such a good girl.”
Consider what your child needs and wants – When making decisions and plans for the family, consult your children. Ask for their ideas, how this might affect them, how it could be done, and listen to their input. This is respectful and will potentially save conflict later. Of course it needs to be done in an age-appropriate way.
Be a mentor when your children have problems – Offer to help your children find solutions to their problems, rather than giving them your solutions. What might seem to be a great solution to you might not work for your child, and could cause frustration. It’s more helpful to teach a great problem-solving process that your child can use many times. ( I teach an effective problem-solving process in the Parent Effectiveness Training course.)
Show respect for your children – Listen respectfully when your children are talking. Make eye-contact whenever possible, don’t keep interrupting or being distracted, and don’t ignore them. Show that you are interested in what they are telling you. This role-modelling of respect and empathic listening will also mean they are more likely to show you respect and listen to you.
Help your child develop emotional intelligence – Acknowledge your child’s emotions, name them and help him/her to work through them. For instance, rather than saying “Don’t be silly, you shouldn’t be worried about trying out for the basketball team. You’ll be great.”, you might say “You seem worried about trying out for the basketball team. Would you like to talk about that? Perhaps I can help.” Don’t dismiss your children’s thoughts and feelings. Let them know it’s alright to have negative feelings sometimes, and that it can help to talk about them.
Value each member of your family equally – Tell your children that they are all equally important members of your family “team”, and let them know that you value their contribution to the family, whatever that might be. Don’t show favouritism towards one child. Sports team members all work together for the good of the team, and it’s the same in a family.
Be the guide and teacher to your children – Help your children succeed by teaching them how to do things – both self-care and family chores. Have an expectation that each child can make a contribution to the household. Jobs like tying their own shoelaces, cleaning their teeth, setting the table for dinner or putting toys away, when mastered, will give satisfaction to both parent and child. But you can’t expect a child to help you at home if you haven’t taken the time to show him how you want something done.
Use your manners! – Remember to say “Please” and “Thank-you” when speaking to your children. Treat them as well as you would treat a good adult friend! If you want polite children, you need to be polite to your children. Role-modelling social skills to your children is an important way of helping them make friends and socialise well. They deserve the best from you so they can give you their best, and become great members of the community.
Use difficulties or challenges as opportunities to teach your children – Help your children develop confidence and resilience by letting them know that you are there for advice in difficult situations. Be optimistic about overcoming challenges and encourage this optimism in your children. Ask them to think of different ways of doing something difficult, rather than giving up. Make sure your children know that it’s OK to make mistakes – everyone does at some time – that we can learn from those mistakes if we try again or try to do it differently.
Have open conversations with your children about important matters – Chatting with your children about the day’s events, about your ideas for holidays, about how you feel and your values, about how they feel, about what they learned at school, about their hopes and fears, is a great way to deepen your understanding of each other. A child who feels understood by a loving parent will have a higher self-esteem. Take care not to make communication just about giving instructions and commands. Reflective listening and I-messages are great communication skills.
Let your children “have a go” at something new or difficult – Allow your children to try out new skills and take small risks. This is how they will learn their capabilities. Be there for support if necessary. For instance, a young child attempting to cross the monkey bar at pre-school – you can start by supporting the child’s weight as he gets the idea of moving his hands from bar to bar. Then he can try swinging himself just two or three rungs, and gradually work up to going all the way across. Without having the confidence to give it a go, the child won’t ever have the great feeling of achievement that comes with success. Encourage them to try.
Encourage physical activity – Self-esteem and confidence grow with a healthy body and mind. Getting out in the fresh air, running off steam, playing alone, with a parent or with friends promotes physical development and good health. Social development also gets a boost when children play together in games or activities that require teamwork, co-operation, negotiation, taking turns and sharing. Don’t underestimate the importance of free play!
Accept and respect differences – Your children are different to each other and different to you; they are not clones of you! While they may have some of your physical and personality traits, they are their own beings. Children are born with some personality traits and their environment will mould them further. They develop their own preferences, strengths, needs, likes and dislikes. Accept their uniqueness and respect those differences.
Make time for each child on a regular basis – Plan for time with each child in which you do an activity that gives you both pleasure. This doesn’t have to be a long time, and you don’t need to spend money or do anything extra special. Talk with the child about what is fun to do together, make it happen and enjoy your time with as few interruptions as possible. This will send the message to the child that you value spending time with him or her.
Be patient with your children – Remember that your children are always learning. Think about how much children learn in their first two years and you realise how amazing it is! Be conscious of their ages and stages of development when setting expectations or making plans. Impatient parents or parents with unrealistic expectations will produce frustrated, angry children who have lower self-esteem.
- Be there with love and support when your children need you.
Copyright Janet Powell, The Parenting Coach, 2014.
www.theparentingcoach.com.auAuthor’s Bio. –
Janet Powell, The Parenting Coach, works with parents and carers to help them develop skills and strategies to enjoy their families more, with less stress and greater confidence. This is done individually or in groups, in person, over the phone or on Skype. These services are available Australia-wide. Janet has many years’ experience working with children and families, including in Early Childhood settings. She is a mother of three adult children and four grandchildren, an Authorised Instructor of Parent Effectiveness Training and Board member of Effectiveness Training Institute of Australia Ltd.
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