As a parent, you want to raise a child with a healthy self-esteem and confidence, but how do you avoid creating an inflated ego and feelings of entitlement? Experts agree that although it’s a delicate balance to strike, there are simple, effective strategies any parent can use.
Lead by example.
A recent study out of the University of Washington suggests that children’s self-esteem is already established by the time they turn 5. And one of the best ways to foster a strong sense of self in your child is to be that way yourself.
“When a child sees that a parent is confident, then they’re going to emulate that behavior,” said Dr. Lesly Devereaux, a transformational speaker and life coach in Montclair, New Jersey and author of “Breaking Codependency” and “On This Day Remember.”
Focus on what makes them unique.
If you embrace your child’s uniqueness and understand their communication style, you’ll be able to help them build their confidence by choosing your words and tone carefully, said S. Renee Smith, a self-esteem and branding expert and coach in Dover, Del. and author of “Self-Esteem for Dummies.”
“Children come pre-wired and you almost have to solve the mystery of that child and understand what their needs are,” she said.
Rein in the praise.
Kids look to their parents for praise and it’s vital for their self-esteem, but over-praising and empty praise can leads kids to have unreasonable expectations, feel insecure and be conceited. In fact, a study out of The Ohio State University found that children whose parents “overvalued” them at an early age were more likely to be narcissists later on.
So praise hard work, focus and achievement but if your child really isn’t the best at something, don’t tell him that he is. You can recognize a job well done, but also point out ways he can improve next time.
Help your child turn adversity into opportunity.
Your child’s self-confidence will grow if you can help him not only see the bright side of things, but how to cope with rejection or negative experiences.
“Children must see that there is the opportunity to overcome and move forward when faced with adversity,” Devereaux said.
Let them fail.
If you’re always trying to make things easy for your child, she’ll never know how to bounce back from failure. Explain that it’s ok to make mistakes and how you can learn from them and share your own mistakes with your child too.
Teach them to share the spotlight.
One of the best ways to boost your child’s self-esteem without becoming boastful is to teach him how to be a team player in any situation. Even if your child scored the game-winning goal, make sure he understands that he couldn’t have done it without his team.
“Nobody gets to where they are by themselves,” Smith said.
When your kid does something wrong, give her the courage to try again by pointing out that her behavior was unsavory, not her.
“When you speak to the behavior, you’re telling them ‘I know that’s not who you really are and there’s a greater person within you,’” Smith said.
Encourage them to dream.
Look for opportunities that will help your child identify and strengthen his talents and realize that he can achieve anything he wants.
“You allow them to follow their dreams and let them know that the only failure is not trying,” Devereaux said.
Make affirmations a habit.
Read a book of daily affirmations with your child or have him write down “power” words or phrases on a sticky note. Post it near his bed so the affirmation “I am strong,” for example, will be his last thought before bed and the first one when he wakes up.
Remind them of past accomplishments.
It’s important to teach your child that she has the capacity to grow and improve. For example, if she’s struggling with a new math concept at school, have her think about something else she was able to overcome in the past so she’ll have the confidence to keep trying.
Help them see the bigger picture.
Although children may know what their gifts, talents and abilities are, they may not understand how they contribute at home, in school, on the field and ultimately, to the greater good. Remind him by frequently pointing out to your child how his leadership skills could help effect change in the world or how his artistic ability can bring joy to someone’s life, for example. Teaching your child how they have the power to help other people will make his confidence soar, Smith said.