Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Children are very conscious of our words and actions, and as parents we need to be mindful of our behaviour around them. Sometimes, without even realising it, we can affect the moods and self-esteem of our children, especially if they're emotionally vulnerable. Children are very attentive to the adults around them, even when we think that they aren’t. For this reason, we must spend time improving their self-esteem whenever possible. There are several ways to do this. No matter which of the following you choose, remember that as long as you are working to build them up, you will not tear them down. With that in mind, there are certain things you can focus on to help build self-confidence in children.
"praise them when they’ve had trouble or faced challenges and have managed to overcome them"
Brag About Them
Sometimes children overhear us complaining about their behaviours. While we do not mean that they are bad people, we often do this when we are frustrated or do not know what to do. However, how many times do we talk to another parent, friend, or family member and spend the whole time telling them how wonderfully they cleaned their rooms, ate lunch, or listened in the grocery store. These things may seem silly, but children hear what you say. Let them overhear you saying great things. Make sure that those things are sincere, though. Try to praise them when they’ve had trouble or faced challenges and have managed to overcome them. This may be a problem for some parents who have a very high level of expectation, but what you may not recognise is that it’s not really supporting their self-confidence.
Let Them Fail
As unusual as it sounds, let them fail sometimes. Children who learn to fail without guilt can learn to keep trying. When children don’t learn that failure is okay, they don’t learn to cope with it. Children need to know that failure is a part of life, and it is often merely a way to learn to keep trying in order to succeed. Many children spend their entire childhood being helped through everything. Then when they get a bad grade, fall off a bike, or forget a friend’s birthday, they are devastated rather than merely frustrated. Children need not be safe in failure. As the old adage goes, let them learn from their mistakes. They also need to see that when they fail, you will help them learn from it or support them in trying again.
"I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that showered me with love and attention and when you have that, the challenges in the outside world are just easier to deal with."
Give Them Attention
Children who feel valued learn to value themselves. They become aware that they improve your life and world, which teaches them that they are valuable to the rest of the world too. Spending quality time together will also allow them to open up to you and let you know when they aren’t feeling so good about themselves. Feeling that they are valued so they can deal with their fears will help your child build self-esteem and confidence. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that showered me with love and attention and when you have that, the challenges in the outside world are just easier to deal with.
Cut Back on Competition
Both my boys are incredibly competitive, they compete for everything from a seat at the table to who is first out the door when we leave the house. Some competition is healthy, and children need some things to help them to be competitive. However, competing constantly could make them afraid of failure. Do not compare them to siblings, classmates, or teammates. If he or she wants to be a better footballer, encourage your child to seek out the best footballer on the team and ask for help. Do not point out the other child to your child. When he or she chooses a person, do not be critical, or praise the other child too much. They need to know that everyone has strengths and they need to be encouraged.
"Learning to fail, as stated, will help them know that it is not the end of the world."
Ask For Their Help & Opinions
Ask your child to make choices for dinner, help around the house, or choose his or her activities. When your child feels safe in making decisions, self-esteem improves. He or she will feel comfortable enough to make decisions. My eldest is often indecisive about things and sometimes uneasy to share opinions, but we encourage him to do it more often to help build his confidence. People with low self-esteem often do not feel comfortable making decisions because they are afraid of failure or letting someone down. Learning to fail, as stated, will help them know that it is not the end of the world. They also need to know that their opinions do not have to change to be accepted.
Help with Goal Setting
We sometimes forget that children may not know how to set goals. They need us to be role models and teachers. Show your children that wanting to ride a bike when they have never sat on a tricycle may not happen in one day. It is possible to learn, but they need to plan smaller goals first. Help them determine how to measure that goal. A child who rides a bike all day before falling hasn’t failed but rather may have just made a mistake. Let them know the difference in can’t and made a mistake. They need to understand how to accurately measure goals and set logical ones.
Self-esteem takes years to build, but moments to destroy. You will not always make the best choices with your child. None of us do. Sometimes we yell when we shouldn’t or do not give them the attention they need. Being honest about our mistakes and doing the things above can build self-esteem in a child.
If your child has mental health problems and needs support, YoungMinds is able to offer some help. Contact Parents Helpline UK - 0808 802 5544
How have you developed your child’s self-esteem?