Self-esteem refers to the confidence a person has in themselves. The way you interact with your child, even from a very young age, can significantly affect, for better or worse, your child's early development of self-esteem. To give your kids the best chance of developing a positive self-image, nurture them as they grow and let them know you believe in them. You can't give your child self-esteem, but you can help provide an ideal environment in which to nurture and develop it.
- Encouragement. Show interest in your child's actions, thoughts and feelings. Use words and hugs to show children that they are important and appreciated. Be sure to listen thoughtfully when your child comes to you with a question or problem, and offer reminders that everyone makes mistakes and that we can use them to learn and improve.
- Praise and criticism. Use honest, sincere and specific praise to applaud your child's good work. Leave criticism out of praise, and never tease or use negative words or actions if your child falls short. Never compare your child to another, and be careful not to only compliment or praise your child just for achievements. Kids need to be reminded that they are talented, unique and loved even between their accomplishments.
- Rules. Be sure that rules are easy for your child to understand and that you apply them fairly. When your child misbehaves, focus on the behavior, not the child. Remind children that they are loved no matter what.
- Positive example. Show your child effective ways to cope with tough situations, like having to share a favorite toy, and cognitive or behavioral skills like how to manage anger or stress or solve problems. Be a positive role model by conveying that you like yourself.
- Self-discovery. Give children room to learn who they are instead of pressuring them to fit your expectations. Children grow with new challenges and experiences, so give your child the chance to think and work creatively. Give your child chances to help you with safe, age-appropriate tasks such as cooking, folding laundry or washing the car, even if you can do it better and faster on your own. However difficult, don't rescue your child from every problem situation. Let your kids know you're there if they need you, but give them room to resolve their own problems to build self-confidence.
- Respect. Make sure your child understands the importance of other people's feelings and self-esteem. It will take a lot of courage and your guidance to help your child overcome the pressure to participate in teasing and criticism of peers or siblings. Standing up for a classmate who's being teased or bullied can be very intimidating for a young child, so help your child practice ways to interact with classmates in those kinds of situations.