As parents, it is impossible for us to protect our children from all the situations and problems they will have to face throughout their lives. Children must grow and develop in environments where we, as parents, are not present to lend a helping hand .
However, we have a fundamental tool to help children become self-sufficient and make their own decisions: self-esteem.
Self-esteem in children: several previous clarifications
Basically, we can say that children’s self-esteem begins to be shaped by the relationships they establish with people in their immediate environment: parents, siblings (if any), teachers and playmates .
Self-esteem is expressed through the emotions and feelings the child displays and depends largely on his or her self-image and perception of self-efficacy. If the child is perceived to be confident in his or her own abilities and capabilities, it is only natural that he or she will develop high self-esteem. Otherwise, if the child does not trust his potential and has a poor perception of his abilities and skills, he will gradually consolidate certain negative ideas and feelings towards himself, leading to low self-esteem.
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The role of parents in the child’s emotional well-being
As parents, we have a great responsibility to foster good self-esteem in our children .
On many occasions, the low self-esteem of children is closely related to the bad habits and the dynamic dysfunctional relationships we learned from our parents . If we do not give importance to these aspects in the upbringing of our children, we run the risk that they will grow up and consolidate some negative feelings and a bad perception about themselves.
More on this topic: “Tips for Nurturing Your Child with Emotional Intelligence”
10 strategies, techniques and tricks to increase your child’s self-esteem
1. Be a role model
It is one of the most effective strategies: if you are a positive role model for your child, he will learn from your way of being and doing . Children learn by imitating adults. Therefore, it is not effective to order them to have certain habits and customs if we, as parents, are the first to act in the opposite way.
If the child sees that you are a person who does not value himself, who is complaining all day and who shuns his tasks and responsibilities, it is only natural that he will end up adopting this negative model and become like you. For this reason it is necessary that we take care of our own self-esteem, as well as our habits and values .
Learn to improve your self-esteem: “10 keys to increase your self-esteem in 30 days”
2. Setting limits and standards
It is important that we as parents manage to set clear limits and rules for our children to develop properly . These limits not only let them know that there are things that should not be done, but also transmit to them a framework of interactions in which they can feel comfortable and safe, and therefore lay the foundations for good self-esteem.
Obviously, these limits must be consistent and reasonable .
3. Censor the error, not the person
There are different ways to correct our child when he makes a mistake: we can scold and criticize him personally or we can focus our observation on inappropriate behavior .
It is essential that we as parents understand that we must avoid making the child feel excessively guilty for the mistake he has made, because he might associate the mistake made with his own personality. Therefore, we should not use phrases like “you are useless” . Focus on the behaviour and don’t make any judgements about the child .
4. Value the effort, not the result
When we begin a journey, we should not reduce everything to the final result but to the challenge that it has meant to go through and in the personal development and experience that we have acquired trying to achieve our objectives .
We must be aware that the effort we have invested in this activity that motivates us so much is much more important than whether or not we have been able to reach the objectives we had set. For this reason it is fundamental that we value the effort of the children, even in the case that for some reason they have not been able to carry it out successfully . In this way, we will be able to make him/her aware that if he/she makes an effort in things he/she will be able to advance adequately, and that the obstacles he/she may encounter will only be temporary.
5. Detect and correct your limiting beliefs
The rational thinking of children goes through different phases of maturation, and this implies that they do not always follow a logical coherence . Sometimes, they may be nurturing certain irrational and erroneous thoughts about themselves, which can negatively affect their self-esteem.
If you identify any of these limiting or wrong beliefs, it is important that you do your best to correct them, so that they do not become entrenched in your mind . For example, we should avoid them having manias about their physical appearance or doubting their intellectual abilities. We must teach them to love themselves as they are. We must help our children to look at themselves objectively, so that they can form a realistic and positive self-concept.
6. Demonstrate unconditional love for your child
Many parents make a common mistake: they encourage their children to “earn their love” by behaving well or achieving certain academic or other achievements or . If we make them see that our affection is not unconditional, the child will base his self-esteem on the approval of others and we will be encouraging him to have a withdrawn personality.
To avoid this, we parents must offer our unconditional love to them . This does not mean that we should tolerate negative behaviour, but it does mean that we should show our understanding and affection even though the child may make mistakes and have some limitations. It is in bad times, for example when he has made a mistake that has made him feel bad, that a child most needs to know that we support him and that we are very proud of him.
7. Encourage the child to take certain risks
Overprotective parents raise children with low self-esteem . If we do not allow our child to test his skills and abilities, he will not be able to know what his limits are and therefore he will not be able to improve his aptitudes, which will encourage him to be an insecure and fearful child.
Therefore, we should encourage our children to face certain challenges from an early age, even when they may pose a controlled risk. This will allow them to improve their skills and expand their world . It is important to emphasize that the child’s identity is built through each new experience, so it is not appropriate to limit their field of action.
8. Letting the little one make mistakes
Every mistake is a new learning experience. We should not fall into the tendency to overdirect the child’s life , because we will be limiting his possibilities to learn and to come out strengthened both in maturity and in self-confidence. The life lessons learned from each experience can be important for their development.
We must encourage children, far from experiencing frustration, to experiment with new challenges and support them when they need it so that they can scale up their cognitive skills and self-confidence.
9. Avoid exaggerating your achievements and skills
A good self-esteem is not the same as an artificially inflated self-esteem , but has its foundation in a balanced and realistic self-concept. Therefore, we should not try to flatter the child all the time and exaggerate his aptitudes and personal achievements, but we should simply leave him a record of his good results thanks to the effort and commitment he has put into the task.
In fact, wanting to exaggerate the virtues of the children can have the opposite effect to the one we would like, since we can lower their self-esteem . So, if for example he is good at playing football, we can let him know and motivate him, but it is not a good idea to get him into the head that he will be the next Leo Messi, because he can be burdened with excessive and unrealistic pressure.
To expand on this point: “Pygmalion effect: children become the yearnings and fears of their parents”
10. Spend quality time with him
A good idea to help develop good self-esteem in your child is to get him to understand that he is very important to you . To do this, you should try to give him some quality time.
We already know that adult life is full of schedules and obligations that don’t allow us to spend as much time with our children as we would like. If you are unable to attend to them at a particular time, it is preferable to let them know and to give them your attention at another time. The child should notice that, although we cannot be with him/her whenever we would like, we have a great interest in attending to his/her needs and giving him/her as much love as possible.