How to help children & teenagers develop healthy self esteem

Self-esteem can be defined as the collection of beliefs and perceptions that we have about ourselves. It influences our motivations, attitudes and behaviours as well as determines our emotional response to the significant experiences in our life.

Healthy self-esteem is a child’s passport to a lifetime of mental and emotional well-being, as well as inter-personal skills. It´s the foundation of a child’s happiness and the key to success as an adult.

Healthy self-esteem is a child’s armour against the challenges of the world. Children who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily, they are realistic and generally optimistic.

This article includes 10 tips to inspire adults to be proactive in their roles as builders of healthy self esteem in the lives of our children and teenagers. These 10 tips are from one track of our  Sam’s World recording, that is now also available in German.

Tip One: Love them unconditionally

Love your children for who they are, not what they do. Accepting your children for who they are, regardless of their strengths, difficulties, temperament or abilities, is perhaps the most nurturing way to help them develop a health self esteem.

Provide plenty physical affection and tell them that you love them. When you do have to correct your child, make it clear that it’s their behaviour — not them — that’s unacceptable.

Children need to get the message that they are worthy of love from the most important adults in their lives – their parents. Show appreciation at all times.

Let your children know that they are valuable. When they feel accepted and loved by the important people in their lives, they feel comfortable, safe and secure, and are open to communication.

We only have one chance at this life. What we deposit into the present and future of our children is one of the most important investments we can make in life.

Tip Two: Respect their needs

If children feel respected and secure within a family, they will find it easier to develop relationships outside the family.

If you put them down or insult them, your children will feel unworthy. Criticism or punishment which is too harsh will prevent children from developing self-confidence.

By accepting your children’s right to have feelings, you can help them learn to respect the feelings of others. If you teach your children healthy ways to express their feelings, they will learn to develop positive relationships.

When the child is asked a question, give them time to think for themselves and to speak out before expressing what you believe to be right or wrong.

When you notice someone being a negative impact on your child’s self esteem, address it immediately – even if it takes removing your child from the presence of this person. Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, or trouble with peers. Deal with these issues sensitively but swiftly.

Your child gets one chance at this life. At times, your child needs to see and hear that you will fight for them no matter what.

You will foster a healthier self esteem in your children if you treat their needs and concerns seriously and with respect.

Tip Three: Pay attention

Treat your children as intelligent individuals because it sends the message that you think they’re important and valuable, which does wonders for your child’s self-worth. A child who is ignored, belittled, patronized or put down will suffer lack of confidence.

Spend quality time with your child. In today’s society, it’ s hard to have time for yourself; therefore, dedicate certain hours in the day or certain days out of the week for time to spend with your child. Be sure to minimize interruptions such as cell phones, visitors, televisions and computers. Be consistent. Do not show that spending quality time with your child is a burden. Find joy in observing your child’s development and pleasure in engaging with them.

Remember, what we deposit into the present and future of our children is one of the most important investments we can make in life.

Tip Four: Set boundaries

According to Paediatrician – T. Brazelton and Child Psychiatrist – S. Greenspan, children have a need for the setting of limits, they require structure and thrive on having their expectations met.

Establish a few reasonable rules, as this helps children feel more secure. Be clear and consistent, and show them that you trust them to do the right thing. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem.

Create a safe, loving home environment. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. In the event of verbal or physical abuse, seek professional help immediately for all parties involved.

Provide a space in which your children know what to expect. Being familiar and comfortable with routines in different contexts leads to a sense of security and stability, which builds confidence in those contexts. With the building of confidence in a variety of contexts, self esteem is nurtured.

Avoid blaming, teasing the child, or making comments that make them feel they aren’t good enough. Also realize, you won’t be around the child 24/7 and there will be times when they’ll have to defend themselves. It will be easier for the child to do this if the child has a healthy self esteem.

Tip Five: Be a positive role model

Your actions and words demonstrate your values and these are passed on to your children. A child assimilates a great deal of the energy and intentions of the adults in that child’s proximity. Be mindful of what you’re expressing, including non-verbally. The best way to get your values across is to “walk your talk” by living your values.

If you’re excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your child may eventually mirror you. Parents with low self esteem or negative behaviours will set an example for their kids. Parents who consistently put other people needs before their own may demonstrate to their children that their own needs are not important. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your child will have a great role model.

Teach your children that adults are humans too. We all go through changes in life and some of those changes can be difficult at first. Let them know that its perfectly natural for relationship dynamics to change and to experience loss, and that there is always a positive reason behind every experience.

Tip Six: Let them be themselves

Don’t expect your child to excel in sports or music or academics just because you did (or wished you did). The one thing your child can excel in is being them self.

Children must know that your love for them does not depend on your approval of their performance. That may not be easy for a parent who was raised to perform for love and acceptance.

Standing over your child’s shoulders and correcting EVERYTHING they do will dis-empower them. It can make them feel that you don’t trust them, or think they’re worthy, or intelligent enough.

It’s crucial that we allow our children to do things their own way. Let the child go at their own pace as much as you can. If they crumble in the face of a tough challenge, that’s okay. Provide a safe space for them to express their feelings openly.

Requiring your children to excessively seek approval before starting or completing a task – can cause self doubt which leads to self esteem issues. Be patient with your children. Provide just enough support and guidance so that they figure relevant things out for themselves. Let your children make decisions and give them a chance to speak or think for themselves.

Avoid giving too much responsibility too soon. Let the child be free of worry, stress, deadlines and severe consequences for tasks they shouldn’t be responsible for in the first place. Everyone has one chance at childhood. Let your child have theirs.

Tip Seven: Resist comparisons

Children are perfect in all their imperfections. Each child has unique talents and qualities. Sometimes their potential is a little hidden, and our job as adults is to help each child unveil the greatness within them.

Comments such as “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” or “Why can’t you be nice like Mary?” will just remind your child of where he or she struggles in a way that fosters shame, envy, and competition. Even positive comparisons, such as “You’re the best dancer” are potentially damaging because a child can find it hard to live up to this image. If you let your children know you appreciate them for the unique individuals they are, they’ll be more likely to value themselves too.

If your child compares themself unfavourably to siblings or peers, show them empathy and then point out one of their strengths. This can help your child learn that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that they don’t have to be perfect to feel good about themself.

Identify and redirect your child’s inaccurate beliefs. It’s important for parents to identify kids’ irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to kids.

Tip Eight: Allow mistakes to happen

There is no failure, there is only feedback.

Should you child blunder, encourage them to think about what they might do differently next time. These are valuable lessons for your child’s confidence. Acknowledging and recovering from your mistakes sends a powerful message to your child — it makes it easier for your child to accept his or her own shortcomings.

Allow the child opportunities to make their own decisions. This will give them a chance to learn from their mistakes, become independent and feel a sense of pride and happiness.

It is extremely important to give children support and approval. Children who have faith and confidence in themselves and their abilities will be more likely to lead happy and productive adult lives. Teach your children to learn from their mistakes, to work towards a goal, and to have pride in their successes.

Teach your child that failure doesn’t exist, only temporary setbacks on the road to success. Avoid telling children they have failed, let you down or cannot succeed. Be a mentor and help children to believe in their ability to succeed no matter how long it takes!

When children feel safe, they are less likely to be afraid of failure and more likely to risk trying again when they experience set backs.

Tip Nine: Provide encouragement

Every child needs the kind of support from loved ones that signals, “I believe in you. I see your effort. Keep going!” Encouragement means acknowledging progress — not just rewarding achievement.

There’s a difference between praise and encouragement. One rewards the task while the other rewards the person. Praise can make children feel that they’re only “good” if they do something perfectly. Encouragement, on the other hand, acknowledges the effort. Too much praise can create pressure to perform and set up a continual need for approval from others.

Encourage your child to explore something new, such as trying a different food, making a new friend or riding a bike. Let your child safely experiment, and resist the urge to intervene. For instance, try not to “rescue” them if they’re showing mild frustration at figuring out a new toy. You’ll build their self-esteem by balancing your need to protect them with their need to tackle new tasks.

Tip Ten: Focus on their strengths and talents

“The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have.” – Woody Allen –

We are all special. Children need to understand and be reminded that they are special in their own way!

It is important for you to help your children discover their own special talents and qualities. Once they do identify what makes them special, they need to learn to value their own strengths. Remember to teach your children that feeling special does not mean feeling better than others; rather, it is a positive understanding of their own uniqueness.

Give your child plenty opportunities to be creative, explore, succeed and do well. It will also be helpful to give the child a task to complete knowing they’ll be good at. This is a quick and easy way to build self esteem and confidence.

Focussing on your child’s unique strengths and talents enables them to feel good about their positive qualities, which builds their character and helps them be optimistic about the future.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” – Leo Buscaglia –

These 10 tips are from one track of our  Sam’s World recording, that is now also available in German.

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