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Written by: Katya on 30/08/17
As a parent, it can be very hard to see your children dealing with self-esteem issues. But, this is a very natural part of a child’s development. Some kids have a harder time than others do in overcoming struggles with self-esteem. Negative self-image or hypercritical self-talk can be really big challenges, and sometimes parents need advice for knowing how to help their children navigate them.
Teaching our children to embrace the journey is half of the battle. Not only can they learn how to see themselves in a positive light – as capable, valuable individuals; they can also be the example that others may need to start building positive self-esteem. Especially in the age of cyber-bullying, putting an emphasis on this can really turn our kids into a force for change in the world. But how is this done?
Obviously, the foundation is laid when we shower our children with love that is unconditional, no matter what they are going through. But there are also more tangible tools we can give them to help them proactively build this positive attitude toward themselves and a strong sense of internal security. These 10 tips for parenting will help you guide your child away from the pitfalls that sabotage self-esteem as you coach them toward adulthood.
Encourage your kids to make others a priority.
It seems really counter-intuitive at first, but the building block for helping your children learn to see their true worth is teaching them how to invest in others. The easiest way to bring on troubles with depression and self-image is to allow your child to remain self-absorbed. Children are naturally born selfish; no special transformation needed. They begin developing a sense of self in the toddler years… and that’s the sum of their understanding regarding human interaction for a while. Everyone else exists for their care and amusement as far as they are concerned. The capacity to appreciate and care for the needs of others is learned through experience and education.
Our job as parents is to guide little beings that are initially self-centred into selfless individuals who can put the needs of others before their own. Teach and demonstrate this kind of love. It is the first step toward real fulfilment when a person sees his or her efforts actively promote the wellbeing of another. When we live out this principle, we have the satisfaction of knowing that not only are we equipped for the task of serving others, but our contribution is absolutely necessary! What better way to gain a sense of validation and self-worth! This is the first step to helping your children build genuine self-esteem.
Teach them how to be a friend.
Some of the most basic of human needs are positive interactions and friendship. Children can provide this to their peers, to the elderly, to those who are hurting – anyone who needs it, really. When you know someone who is lonely or going through a hard time, don’t underestimate the power your children can have to lift their spirits. Give them the experience of being a friend to the friendless or hurting and watch their understanding grow of just how important they are.
Set the example of treating others the way you want to be treated.
It’s definitely important to teach your children how to reach out to those who may be going through a hard time. But what do you teach them about how they should treat those who are unkind? Low self-esteem is usually the culprit behind bullying as people try to bring others low to make themselves feel better. Unfortunately, it often prompts a similar response in the victim.
It takes LOTS of time and patience to help children foster an appreciation for the benefits of “taking the high road” regardless of the situation. Setting the right example is always going to be the #1 parenting tip and this is no exception. Helping your child to grow into an adult with minimal self-esteem issues begins with assessing and addressing your own insecurities. How do you typically respond to difficult situations, and what are the typical outcomes? Ask yourself, “Do I show signs of low self-esteem? Do I set the example of lashing out, getting defensive, or cutting others down when my feelings are hurt?”
If the answer was yes, then these principles need to become a way of life so your children have a chance to see how they work through your example.
Is there a trend showing up in these principles? Absolutely. Impulsiveness and reactionary behaviours are prevalent in children. That being said, it’s no secret that one doesn’t magically arrive at “maturity” simply because one reaches adulthood. It depends largely on the parenting one receives. If these skills are not in your own “adulting” toolbox, it is very likely you deal with insecurities yourself that are impacting your children. Make it your goal to be proactive, and you will have a better chance at raising your child to be proactive, thus promoting healthy self-esteem as your child matures into an emotionally secure adult.
Monitor your own self-talk, and make any necessary changes.
Moms especially need to intentionally choose to speak well of themselves instead of getting down on themselves. I know, it’s not easy. But, children are “tape-recorders” when it comes to the words they hear us say on a regular basis. Moms often don’t pay attention to the verbal cues they give – especially ones that send the message, “I’m not good enough.” Be cautious of letting even humorous negativity become part of your parenting style.
Foster a sense of responsibility for contribution to the family.
Contribution=Confidence. Especially as children become teenagers, knowing they have a place in the world is critical to a healthy perspective. This starts by showing them they have a place in the family and their contribution is needed. Show them that they add something, not just by who they are but by what they do. Give them responsibilities!
Prepare them for life as an adult by teaching them skills.
Going right along with encouraging contribution, parents need to equip their children to be contributors! Help them find special ways to make life easier on those around them. Teach them how to turn a hobby into a marketable skill. Entrepreneurship can begin from a very young age! If children are focused on honing a skill, they will struggle less with self-esteem issues. Skill-building means that even failure can be a tool to bring about success.
Show a genuine interest in their pursuits.
Be intentional about praising your child for efforts they make, hobbies they develop, and goals they set. Ask how you can help them in those efforts, and focus on putting resources in front of them to bring about their success. Parents can really help facilitate opportunities to let their child shine when they are plugged in and know what truly interests their child. You don’t have to know everything about their particular passion – just be involved when they ask you to be and teach them how to find what they need for growth and development in whatever they are passionate about.
Let it be ok if they have different passions than you.
Connected to this idea of helping them in their pursuits is the idea that your love for them is not conditional based on whether they enjoy the same activities you do. Don’t make the mistake of trying to push your child to achieve a dream that YOU have for them, or worse, that you had for yourself that never came true. Kids need to be free to dream and be their own person. Parents need to avoid trying to vicariously achieve unfulfilled dreams through their children and instead focus on being their child’s cheerleaders, coaching them toward their own successes.
Teach them to value what makes them unique.
Not appreciating our uniqueness begins the spiral of trying to please others and following unhealthy trends that sabotage self-esteem. So often, kids focus on trying to “be different, just like everybody else” and it’s such a rabbit hole. Instead, children can be learning from a very young age with guidance and support that they are exactly what they are supposed to be – and it’s special. It’s good. Being different provides the platform for developing understanding and compassion. A helpful tip for parents is to plant this idea as early as you can – when your child notices someone is different, encourage them to embrace them for it. Lead the way so they understand how that’s done. Your child will develop the understanding that others can extend the same courtesy of embracing them for who they are and they can do the same. Because you do.
Teach them to appreciate the differences between themselves and those around them.
Finally, as they learn to love what makes them unique, teach them not only to observe and embrace differences in others but also how to let those differences be the catalyst for positive interactions. Two people with different points of view can end up with arguments and hurt feelings when they interact. Getting defensive only brings self-esteem lower. Kids can learn to see what makes each person unique as the very gift that person brings to the world. So put those parenting skills to work – start early with teaching your child how to see the differences in others synergistically.
The greatest contribution we can ever make in the world is bringing up our children to be capable, confident adults who are passionate about making the world a better place. Help them see the needs of those around them, to be aware of the influence they have, and equip them to make a difference. In whatever they show interest and for whatever they may develop a passion, be their number one resource. Encourage them to be self-taught so they have no limits, and to that skill to contribute and make the lives of others easier. There is no better method for building healthy self-esteem!
What would you add to the list of parenting tips? Tell us about it below.
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