A good self-esteem is important for emotional health, interpersonal relationship, ability to weather difficulties, and achieve important goals in life. Here are some ways to help your children increase their self-esteem.
1. Internal Boundary
Teach your child how to filter out non-constructive negativity. Stand up for your child if you have a family or friend that likes to pick on him. Perhaps your child has a “caring” aunt that tends to dish out commentary about your child’s behavior/look/mood that you find hurtful or unnecessary. I encourage you to stand up for your child by politely putting a stop to it so your child knows (1) you don’t agree (2) it’s just someone’s opinion – it may or may not be true. You are demonstrating how to build internal boundary to your child. A stronger internal boundary helps children become less sensitive to other people’s hurtful comments.
Let your child struggle some. Help him learn the value of struggling in achieving a goal. Reinforce that when he can be comfortable with struggling, then he is acquiring an important internal resource to deal with life’s many challenges. For example, if your child is learning something new, give him some space to figure it out but don’t let him give up. Offer to help when he wants it. Once he comes through, acknowledge the sense of accomplishments and the discomfort of the struggle. Help him learn that he’s got what it takes to overcome difficulties.
3. Emotional Regulation
4 year-old throws a tantrum and he’s not very aware how it might look to his peers. As he gets older, he will become aware that his moodiness or outburst will affect his peer relationship and it will affects his self-esteem. Help him learn to manage his behaviors appropriately. Take notes of your child’s mood. If he seems stressed or tired, help him get back to a happy-calm state. Learn what makes your child calm down and help him remember that he can control his mood and you appreciate that he makes the effort. When a child is way to stressed or tired, he can lose his cool very easily. When children learn to notice their mood is outside of manageable range and that they can be in charge of bringing it back down, they are learning important tools of emotional regulation. Some activities that help kids calm themselves down might be playing outside, sports, drawing, using their hands to make crafts, reading, taking a bath, listening to music, singing, or snuggling.
Children unconsciously internalize the spoken and unspoken message they hear from their caretakers whether they are important or not. Make a point to show your child that he is seen and heard – acknowledge his feelings, his struggles, his accomplishments, and his interests. Put aside what you might think (or judge) and focus on sharing his experience.