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Smart Parent! 11 WAYS TO HELP YOUR KID BUILD SELF-ESTEEM

Parenting is very exciting but it requires more effort to bring out the best in kids. Understanding your kids could be crucial in building their self esteem. Here are 11 very smart ways to build your child’s self esteem and make him or her the best among peers.

11 WAYS TO HELP YOUR KID BUILD SELF-ESTEEM

Simply praising your child can actually do more harm than good. Here’s a comprehensive guide to building self-esteem in children.

Last week, my son Aaron made the school soccer team. Boy, was I proud. And I couldn’t stop saying so. “Good job, buddy! You’re the best!” I beamed, he beamed, and all seemed right with the world.

It’s not the first time my kids have heard me shout their praises. I’m the resident cheering section, their biggest fan, a back-patter extraordinaire. These days, you can find me handing out compliments as if they’re sticks of gum—when my kids practise guitar, score a goal, help with dishes. The mom logic goes like this: The kid does good (or good enough for me), so I make him feel great about himself. It’s called boosting self-esteem. Or so I thought.

  1. Step back
    As it turns out, there are better ways to build self-esteem than heaping on praise for everything kids do—starting with helping them become competent in the world, says Jim Taylor, author of the bookYour Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You. To do so, though, you have to learn to step back and let your child take risks, make choices, solve problems and stick with what they start.
  2. Over-praising kids does more harm than good
    Self-esteem comes from feeling loved and secure, and fromdeveloping competence, Taylor says, and although parents often shower their kids with the first two ingredients, competence—becoming good at things—takes time and effort. “As much as we may want to, we can’t praise our kids into competence,” he says.

In fact, by over-praising kids, we’re doing more harm than good. “We’re lowering the bar for them,” Taylor says. “If you keep telling your child she is already doing a fantastic job, you’re saying she no longer needs to push herself. But confidence comes from doing, from trying and failing and trying again—from practise.”

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Samantha MacLeod, who has four boys, ages one to nine, believes constant complimenting can actually erode self-esteem. Either kids start thinking they’re perfect or they try to be perfect all the time—an impossible standard. And inaccurate praise confuses them, she says. “If my son can’t spell and I tell him he’s doing terrific, he learns not to trust his own instincts. He also learns that praise is just flat-out lying.”

Plus, Taylor adds, telling your child he’s the best, the smartest or the most talented is setting him up for some very bad news down the road. You’re creating an egomaniac who thinks his scribbles are Rothkos but, sooner or later, he’ll discover he’s not all that after all.

  1. Let your child take healthy risks
    Start by forcing yourself to stand back while your child takes healthy risks, says Victoria Sopik, CEO of Kids & Company, a corporate childcare service in Toronto, and a mother of eight. “To build confidence in the world, kids have to take chances, make choices and take responsibility for them,” Sopik says. She sees too many parents trying to rescue their kids from failure all the time.

Sopik remembers staring from across the room as her two-year-old son, Fraser, lifted a huge jug of orange pop at a fancy party. “He was about to pour it into a glass, and I just stood there, holding my breath,” Sopik recalls.  Rather than trying to save her son before he had a chance to try, Sopik watched as Fraser spilled the pop all over the floor.

Then came the best part: Fraser found a waitress, asked for a paper towel and cleaned up his own mess. “He solved his own problem—just like we do as successful adults,” Sopik says.

  1. Let kids make their own choices
    When kids make their own age-appropriate choices, they feel more powerful, says Sopik, pointing out that kids as young as two can start considering the consequences of their decisions. Sopik always let her kids decide on their own whether towear a coat, hat and mittens in winter. “Once they knew the difference between warm and cold, it was up to them. They should have control over their bodies and take responsibility for their choices,” she says.
  2. Let them help around the house
    In building self-esteem, kids also need opportunities to demonstrate their competence and feel that their contribution is valuable, says Taylor. At home, that means asking them, even when they’retoddlers, to help with cooking, setting the table and making beds.
  3. Encourage them to pursue their interests (fully)
    Another surefire way to boost confidence in kids is to encourage them to take on tasks they show interest in, then make sure they follow through to completion. It doesn’t matter what the task—it could be anything from swimming laps to beating levels in video games. The point is for them to stick with what they start, so they feel that hit of accomplishment at the end.
  4. What to do when children struggle or fail
    What if your child’s self-esteem plummets when she gets cut from the gymnastics team or can’t memorize multiplication tables?
  5. Don’t lose sleep over it
    “So many parents have it backward,” Taylor says. “They think struggles and failure will hurt their kids’ self-esteem, but it’s actually a golden opportunity to help build it.”
  6. Make clear that your love is unconditional
    Let your child know you love her even when she fails or makes bad decisions. If all you talk about is performance, Sopik points out, she will think you only love her for her report card or the lead she got in the play.
  7. Make sure your child’s goals are within reach, at a level appropriate for his ability
    That may mean suggesting he join house league, where he can feel like a star rather than being the last one picked on the AA team. MacLeod learned this lesson when her son, Alex, was in grade two. Feeling like a failure at reading, Alex was ready to give up when MacLeod brought home some Magic Tree House books, which were slightly below Alex’s level. “He read one every two days and was so proud of himself that he went on to read the Goosebumps series, no problem,” she recalls. Afterward, mother and son talked about how Alex’s choice to practise paid off, and she praised his perseverance.
  8. Offer appropriate praise
    Although praise is often misused, when it’s specific and earned, it is a valuable self-esteem builder, Taylor says.Lorna Crosse, a former music teacher, remembers asking her choir students to keep a “brag file” full of praise they earned. Any time they saw their names in a program or newspaper article or received a complimentary note, they were to put it inside. “When the kids had a bad day, they would take out those words of praise and read all the neat things they had done, and it would make them feel better about themselves.”

    The brag file works because it shows kids specific ways they’re special and teaches them that practise reaps rewards, Taylor says. And it’s the practise—the effort—that should be the focus of praise, Sopik says. “Don’t just say ‘great play’. Tell him it was awesome how he passed the ball to his teammate.”

    And keep in mind that a little indirect praise, such as stars on a chore chart, can work wonders. Mom Nancy Botelho gets even more inventive. She makes sure her kids “overhear” a little boasting. “I’ll tell my friends how the teacher said Margaret is so kind, or how I saw Bridget working so hard at tying her shoes. The kids just shine. Since they were spying, they know I mean it and I’m not just trying to make them feel good.”

    YOUR SELF-ESTEEM CHECKLIST

    Here are some of the things that the Canadian Mental Health Association says you can do to help raise confident—not coddled—kids:

    Feel special. It’s imporant for you to help your children discover their own unique talents and qualities, and to value their own strengths. But also teach them that feeling special doesn’t mean feeling better than others.

    Set goals. Teach your kids to work towards a goal and to have pride in their accomplishments. Provide them with opportunities for success.

    Try, try again. Encourage your children to try things their own way, face challenges and take risks.

    Source: Today’s Parent

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, COOU, (formerly Anambra State University), Igbariam Campus.

28 Comments

Add a Comment
  1. Nwabugwu Sandra ijeoma

    Knowledge…..2015054104

  2. Wow!!! Parenting indeed is a difficult task and I must confess I learnt a lot from this article. I think African parents should read more of these type of articles cos they get it all wrong when it comes to parenting. For instance the other time a jambite committed suicide cos of the fear of his mother’s reaction to his failure. I keep saying it time and time again! Failure is not the end of the world for a child. There is more to that child than you think but maybe not in that field you expect the child to be more successful. We Africans see the Western world as corrupt and yet they keep being successful more than we are. Why? Because of their mentality! I pray God gives us the grace to bring up our kids in the right way!
    Nwosu Leona Uchechi
    2015054111

  3. Nnopu blessing ogoo

    Good advice tho

  4. Onuchukwu Chika Jennifer

    Parenting is difficult and stressful but with the right tools it becomes enjoyable and fulfilled.
    2015054044

  5. Eze Priscillia Obianuju

    2015054105
    This is true praising your kids when they fail helps them to learn from there mistakes and to strive more.

  6. Raising a child isn’t easy….kuddos to our parents

  7. Exactly!!! Parent are the solid foundation of every child, what they say or do has a greater impact on a child…
    Awesome massage for parents and yet to be if u want your future to be bright then read and do this.

  8. nwangene onyema c

    this is nice, every nigeria parents needs to see this…

  9. Obiechina Ifunanya Vivian

    Obiechina Ifunanya Vivian, 2016054028/DE

    I’ve noted down these points and in no distant time it will be utilized on my kids(winks). Thanks for the information!

  10. Chinweuba Tobechi M

    Parenting is a great thing but also a difficult task… it only takes God grace to to try the best You can..

    Chinweuba Tobechi M 2015054061

  11. parenting is very difficult but with the right training you will enjoy.
    Reg no:2015054070.
    Name:Ojukwu ujunwa Francisca

  12. parenting is a very difficult task i must say and that leaves you in a position of doing what you dont like just to please your kids or doing what you like and displeasing your kids…parents should learn to help bulild their kids esteeem instead of helping the society in crushing it..

  13. I wish African/Nigerian parents will b able to see dis kinda stuff as legit nd readable.
    2015054137

  14. nwankwo onyinye grace

    Nice one. Encouraging even when they fail will make them perform well next time. But some parents will tell you that when you shout at them, punish them, they will do better. Nice one..
    2016054058DE

  15. umeh blessing chinelo

    so true,very nice every parents needs to read this
    2015054106

  16. martinezeiru Mmesoma mirian

    Parenting is difficult but can be enjoyable when you use the right key.

  17. Nnopu blessing ogoo

    Great idea

    Ike chika Miriam
    2015054097

  18. Chukwukadibia Adaobi

    Good one

  19. okeke ifunanya favour

    To be a parent is not easy …
    .

  20. Chukwurah Uzoamaka

    nice one I think Nigeria parents should read this

  21. Irechukwu ifeoma 2015054042

    wat a great idea to parents

  22. Nnadozie Chikodiri

    well said

  23. Confirm … For my future children…but it’s really not easy to train a child.

  24. parenting is a very difficult task tho , in order to achieve what is good for our children you have to sacrifice your time for them.

    ibeh happiness
    2015054081

  25. Good one
    2015054056

  26. Anowi Onyinyechi Jane

    Great idea I jst got

  27. To be a parents no be small thing

  28. Nice advice

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