Self-Esteem Doesn’t Happen by Accident

285 Self EsteemNurture your kids to healthy self-esteem.

Self-esteem is more than a catchy buzzword—it is fundamental to our emotional health. Self-esteem doesn’t just happen by accident; parents can do a lot to foster a sense of healthy self-esteem.

The self-esteem movement in the schools had one thing right: self-esteem is important. Unfortunately, it takes more than excessive praise to raise a child with positive self-esteem. In fact, a little constructive criticism can go a long way to building a strong, happy child.


What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to a person’s overall assessment about his or her own worth. Some people confuse the terms self-concept and self-esteem. Self-concept is based on what we think about the self, whereas self-esteem is based on how we feel about the self. Self-esteem is built around the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the emotions we feel.

Kids with healthy self-esteem have confidence in their own abilities, feel secure about themselves, enjoy a variety of activities, and are sensitive to the feelings of others. Kids with low self-esteem are pessimistic, indecisive, hypersensitive to criticism, tend to engage in heavy self-criticism, and have an exaggerated fear of making mistakes.

So, how do you ensure that your child develops healthy self-esteem? It takes a targeted effort:


Spend quality time: One of the most important things you can do to boost your child’s sense of self-worth is spend quality time with him or her. During this time, listen and give your child your undivided attention, so she will feel significant, valued, and important. Turn off the phone, ignore the email, and resist the temptation to multi-task and make dinner—instead, give your child 100 percent of your attention.

Empower critical thinking: Encourage your child to make decisions, solve problems, and settle conflicts on her own. By giving your child the tools and responsibility for problem-solving and decision-making, you send the message that you have confidence in her abilities. Nothing zaps self-esteem faster than hovering, meddling, and undermining our kids’ decision-making skills.

Introduce opportunities: Provide opportunities for your children to learn new things and explore their creative impulses. Kids gain confidence by trying and mastering new things. By helping your children develop new interests and discover their own passions, you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of healthy self-esteem.

Nurture strengths: Nurture your child’s natural gifts and strengths. Everyone has innate gifts and talents. It’s your job to recognize your child’s gifts and help him find his passions and talents. We all feel better when we are good at something. Help your child recognize his strengths and work to develop them.

Help conquer fears: It’s natural for kids to have some fears. We don’t want to push them into situations that will only serve to exacerbate those fears—but we do want to help them learn to face and overcome their fears. Often, facing a fear can be a huge confidence booster. As a parent, you can help put your kids in a position to overcome fears that may be holding them back.

Use praise sparingly: Praise can be a double-edged sword. It’s important to acknowledge our children’s accomplishments and help them develop a healthy sense of pride in their abilities; however, when praise is overused, it can have negative effects. Overusing praise deflates its authenticity—so it begins to seem meaningless. Save the praise for when it really counts and resist the temptation to praise every insignificant event and behavior throughout the day.

Offer constructive criticism: Everyone makes mistakes and poor decisions. Constructive criticism is simply a part of life. Your child will grown into an adult who inevitably receives constructive criticism on the job, so sparing him the experience now will only serve to make it difficult for him to receive criticism in a healthy way as an adult. Constructive criticism helps children improve their behavior, skills, grades, and more. Just be sure to criticize the behavior, not the person. You want your child to understand that you like his personality and character, just not his behavior.

Let them fail: Failure is a part of life. We each have a unique set of gifts and strengths; we can’t all be good at everything. By hovering and preventing our children from experiencing any sort of failure or hardship, we actually prevent them from developing a healthy sense of confidence and self-esteem. Instead, let your child experience the whole spectrum of success and failure, highs and lows, victories and setbacks. It’s real life—and it will help them to trust in their abilities to navigate both success and failure.