When was the last time you yelled, screamed, criticized or punished your child? When did you last hug, encourage, praise or say “thank you” to your child? If these parenting behaviors were placed on a weight scale side-by-side, what would the results be in determining how you fare in building healthy self-esteem vs. low self-esteem in your children? What would your self-esteem look like if roles were reversed and you were the child being parented by someone just like you?
Parents may not think about or realize how their words and actions impact their children’s self-worth, their ability to feel good about themselves, and how it follows children well into adulthood. The overall independence, happiness and success of children depends largely on parents building healthy self-esteem in their children and teens.
Family communication research confirms that parents spend very little time actually communicating with their children, and when parents do speak to their child it is most often to complain, criticize or reprimand them for something they’ve done wrong. Studies show that younger children are often criticized and yelled at throughout the day, whereas older children and teens report receiving more encouragement and praise as they got older. Something is terribly wrong with that.
In a previous article, I talked about the importance of building self-esteem in children by considering how they view the world through their young eyes and ears, keeping in mind the importance of giving loving encouragement and genuine praise to children. Promoting self-confidence in children means that parents must evaluate and re-evaluate their parenting style, making needed changes and improvements in order for their children to grow up feeling loved, appreciated and wanted.
Young children tend to hear things like:
- Put that down!
- Stop doing that!
- Stop hitting your sister!
- Don’t throw the ball in the house!
- If you do that one more time I’m going to…!
Parents need to look for opportunities and situations to encourage and genuinely praise children when they are cooperating, being nice to their brother or sister, helping with household chores, following the rules or just being good, remembering not to expect perfection with each task.
- I like the way you helped set the table for dinner.
- Thank you for playing nicely with your sister/brother.
- I appreciate how you picked up your toys and put them away.
- I like the way you made your bed all by yourself.
- Thank you for helping me fold the laundry.
- I appreciate how well you behaved at the store today.
Promote self-confidence in children by teaching them positive Self-Talk. Psychologists have found that negative self-talk causes depression and anxiety in children, so it’s important to teach children to have pride in their abilities and accomplishments.
I can still remember when my children were about 3 years-old and trying to get them dressed for the day. My son didn’t want me to help him put his shirt on and said, “I can do it myself!” I allowed him to get dressed by himself, and even though he put the shirt on backwards, the smile on his face told me he felt good about his ability to do things without help.
Children need to be allowed to make age-appropriate choices and decisions, such as deciding what outfit they’ll wear or what they want to eat for breakfast or lunch, as well as helping with chores and responsibilities in the home, in order to learn how to deal with the consequences of their decisions.
- Would you like to wear the blue outfit or the red one today?
- Would you like peanut butter and jelly or a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch?
- Would you like to clean the kitchen or clean the bathroom?
- Would you like to mow the yard or sweep the sidewalk?
- Would you like vegetable soup or chili for dinner tonight?
Children need to be given self-esteem activities in order to feel good about themselves. John is the father of two children, a 9 year-old daughter and an 11 year-old son. From the time his children were five years old, John and his wife began taking the children to homeless shelter’s over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to help feed and serve the homeless.
John’s kids are some of the most compassionate and empathetic children I’ve ever known, so much so that when a family vacation was being considered one year over the holidays, both children said they “need to help the people at the shelter’s” rather than go on vacation. The vacation trip was postponed and the children were thrilled in being allowed to contribute to the final decision.
Children also need to be shown proper discipline from their parents, along with parents setting limits regarding how they talk and behave. Undisciplined children cannot grow up with healthy self-esteem and tend to be more dependent upon others, feeling they have no control over their own lives. Children need emotional and physical protection provided through rules and limits in order to have high self-esteem. I’ll be dealing with the issue of giving proper discipline to children in an upcoming article.
When was the last time you had a real conversation with your child or teen where you truly felt connected? What are some things you recommend parents do to help build high self-esteem in children and teenagers? Do you have a question or personal story you would like to share about building self-confidence in children? If so, please leave a comment below.