How to Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Self-esteem

When you think of the child you love, you probably envision a bright future for them.

One of the most precious gifts you can give your child is healthy self-esteem. It will empower them to feel confident, valued, and prepared for challenges as they grow. Have you ever considered how you can help your child develop a healthy self-esteem?

Consider an imaginary fortune teller’s glass ball, what do you see? You’re almost certainly picturing your child achieving maturity with a healthy sense of Self.

But that child’s self-esteem needs to come from within, not from trying to please the adults around them. A child’s focus on getting approval from their primary caretaker can have adverse effects as the child becomes increasingly dependent upon trying to do things to perfection.

This approval-seeking behavior can extend to other figures of authority later in life. This is an early childhood survival strategy you don’t want to encourage.

Every human being big or small wants to be noticed.

Children unconsciously pick up subtle hints from their primary caregivers. If they’re not acknowledged as separate and unique beings, they begin to learn skills to attain achievement-based approval instead of becoming confident expressing authentic needs and desires unique to their person.

If you notice that your child is constantly looking to you for approval, this is a red flag signaling a possible barrier to healthy childhood development and, if not addressed, may lead to low self-esteem. This type of behavior may be the result of an inadequate mirroring process by you as the primary caregiver.

You have to ask yourself the following question: Am I here to help my child grow up or is my child here to help me to fulfill my emotional need as their parent? 

In other words, do I smile at my child when they accommodate my own wishes or don’t get in the way of my plans?  Do I lash out with words (or worse) when I feel they are making my life more difficult?

Healthy expression of mirroring would allow the child to express their individuality and feel accepted exactly as they are.

The child is a distinct and separate being and has the right to communicate their authentic Self.

So, what does a child with a healthy sense of Self look like? Beginning at an early age, the child expresses assurance instead of hesitation; they take pride in a job well done. They think positive thoughts about themselves even with the easiest of tasks.

Confidence is necessary as they grow because each year brings new and ever-increasing challenges. If the primary caretaker offers positive parenting skills, their child will build self-confidence at a young age.

Contrary to what some might think, self-esteem does not come telling kids they’re wonderful, special, and great (even though they are!). (Kid’s Health)

Self-esteem is the result of experiences that help a child feel capable, competent, and accepted. Are you wondering how to make sure your kids develop healthy self-esteem?

Here are a few ways to think or react differently:

Have patience – allow them to dress themselves. (Eyeroll here!) Yes, we know it’s faster to do it for them. Start on weekend mornings when you are not rushing out the door to work.

Give them choices – but keep it simple! Use only two options, or you’ll overwhelm them. Example: “Choose cereal or toast this morning.”

Let them know everyone makes mistakes – even mom and dad. You can express your feelings of disappointment . . . but make sure they do not take it personally. And vocally express your love for them. Your love has nothing to do with her being perfect or whether or not she accommodates your needs.

Give them sincere and truthful praise. Your children need to know you really see them for who they are. They shouldn’t  have to be performing at their very best to get your attention, right?  And the most important aspect of giving them praise is the fact that you’re communicating compassionately, focused on them, and giving them your sincere attention.

What can you do if your child seems to have a constant need for approval?

Every child wants approval. When you truly see and acknowledge them and make them feel that they count in your life, you foster a healthy relationship.

TIP: It helps to give them tasks that are within their specific age and skill level for building self-confidence.

It’s not necessary every child receive a trophy for participating in an event. Teaching participation is equally as important as winning is a valuable, longer lasting lesson.

Children need to express the emotion of disappointment.

You’ll likely agree that emotional intelligence is one result of strong self-awareness. Children need to be allowed to express the emotion of disappointment as well.

Learning to practice self-expression and brainstorming how to do better next time is priceless. By acquiring new behaviors, as suggested above, you will contribute to your child’s self-esteem . . . and yours, too!

When parents go to great lengths to prevent failure, they’re tacitly giving kids the message that they’re not worthy of love unless they’re always succeeding, and this undermines self-esteem. – Dr. Jamie Howard

It may occur to you now that an important part of helping your child feel loved and happy depends on your happiness and lack of emotional neediness. If you can model healthy self-esteem for them, even better!

Children are always watching and listening. Keep yourself healthy by practicing self-care and taking time when you need it. If you don’t, you may unconsciously pass on the message to your child that they’re the one responsible for your stress or fatigue.

Your children will need your unconditional love no matter what happens. As they develop into positive individuals, your guidance will provide them the skills they need for a direct relationship with Self, a sense of identity, and the ability to deal with greater challenges later in life.

Poor grades or fighting with their siblings, it’s all part of growing up. Aren’t you grateful you are present for this miracle?

May your children become confident individuals!

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