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Raising your child’s self esteem

Disruptive behaviour in children
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Self esteem is the name given to how much a person values themselves and sees themselves as having worth. It is made up of your beliefs and your emotions and it is recognised by child psychologists as being the glue that supports a child to stay resilient within an unpredictable and at times unstable world, so raising your child’s self esteem and supporting them is essential.

Why is self esteem important?

There are all sorts of cultural pressures on young people these days to be super-human. The constant testing at schools, the pressure to have the latest fashions, gadgets and supermodel looks and the message behind the celebrity obsession are all ways that can undermine a child’s positive sense of self if it is not developed strongly enough. Self esteem is an ability to celebrate your own strengths, recognise your areas of weakness and respond to life’s normal ups and downs as they arise, and these qualities are what give them the ability to handle conflict and resist negative pressure.raising your child's self esteem

The early years are the foundation on which a child’s self esteem is built but it is possible to support and boost your child’s feelings about themselves at any time during their lives. There are clear things that you can do regularly that send a message a love and acceptance to your child.

Start from being a baby

Expressing love and affection from day one gives your baby an unconscious imprint that he or she is safe, valued and important enough to be loved. Complimenting your child takes this a step further and is an act of consciously celebrating them and recognising their individual worth. Make sure your complements are specific and phrased in a way that can be heard, rather than saying something general like ‘you’re fantastic!’ which can back fire and develop a big but fragile ego! Instead find a particular example of what it is that has made you feel so proud or moved by them, for example ‘when you told me that story about what happened at lunchtime, I felt very proud of you for being able to be so honest with your friends.’

Challenging them

When you need to challenge your children, separate out your their behaviour from who they actually are. Rather than telling them that they are naughty let them know specifically what it is that you are cross about ‘ I am angry that you have left your room messy again and I’d like you to tidy it in the next hour.’ This avoids them getting a message that they are bad at their core, instead it’s a simple act of amending their behaviour.

Validate your child’s feelings and opinions even if they are different to yours. Find a way to be curious about what has made them form certain beliefs and avoid making them wrong. Acknowledge their sensitivities and offer empathy and understanding for them being affected by the actions and words of others.

Celebrate individuality

Make it a habit to speak positively about your children in front of others, especially those who have key relationships with them such as grandparents, teachers and siblings. Avoid comparing your children to either their friends or their brothers and sisters and instead find ways to celebrate their differences and validate all the ways in which the young people that you know express themselves.

Build your own self esteem tooraising your child's self esteem

Of course, all of this will feel much harder if you didn’t receive validation yourself. If you are aware that you find it hard to respond positively and constructively to your child, or if you know that you received a lot of criticism in your early life, make a decision to build your own self-esteem at the same time as supporting theirs. Children are acutely tuned in to their parents and at some level will hear the encourage of your feelings about yourself compared to what you are saying about them, which will make it hard to accept your words.

Think positive

It is possible to change your self-esteem at any time. Make lists of your feelings, and then write positive statements about yourself, or the world around you. If you can’t think of any, ask friends to write things they like about you. Keep these in a place so that they are visible. Make a tape of your own voice saying something affirming or reading your favourite stories or poems and have inspiring and hopeful quotes in places that you can see. Make a practice of giving yourself some appreciation every day, no matter how small and commit to taking regular time out for a treat of your choice. For more ideas of building your own self-esteem up visit MIND and remember that in doing this, you will be modelling something far more powerful to your children than words ever can.

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About Jenny Smith

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About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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