By: Amy Beschta, M.S., L.P.C., Penfield Children’s Center

Raising children is no easy task, especially if your child has issues with self-esteem or feels she may be inferior in some way to her friends or classmates. As parents, we can start helping our children build a positive perception of themselves early on.

While some children are more naturally confident than others, it is possible to help instill a strong sense of self in even the most timid youngsters. In fact, helping build your child’s self-esteem now can set her on a path to deal with issues later in life, such as bullying or problems with body image.

Here are some suggestions for raising self-assured kids:

  • DO provide your child with age-appropriate toys. These are toys that appropriately challenge your child, so that they are building skills and growing, but not getting so frustrated that they want to stop playing and learning. Skill-building toys help your child feel good about her abilities.
  • DO praise your child’s effort. By praising your child’s effort (“I like how hard you are trying to get that puzzle together”), you are showing her that growth and effort is something positive, giving her a sense of self-worth even if she hasn’t yet reached her goal.
  • DO give your child choices throughout the day. Giving your child appropriate choices throughout the day, such as, “Do you want to wear the red or the blue shirt?” can give her the feeling that she is capable of making good choices.
  • DO give your child age-appropriate chores. Giving children the chance to help out the family around the house gives them a sense of belonging. Feeling part of a family unit that trusts them with small responsibilities gives children the secure base they need to explore their environment, learn new skills and build friendships.
  • DO keep a routine. By keeping a routine your child has some predictability of what is going to happen each day. This predictability gives her a feeling of control, reducing worry and anxiety about what is going to happen next. This allows her to focus on the things that keep her learning and feeling good about her developing skills.
  • DO have a play time with your child each day. Playing is the way young children learn, and playing with you is the way your child learns about herself. Young children learn about themselves through your reactions to things that they do. You are their mirror. By showing interest in your child, you are showing your child that she is interesting and by smiling and laughing with your child, you are showing her that she is fun. This positive attention from you reminds her that she is loved for who she is, giving her the confidence that builds her self-esteem.

In addition to helping your own child build her self-esteem, it’s important to model behavior that encourages acceptance of all people. We’ve heard the phrase: “children are like sponges.” They are constantly learning and taking in the world around them. If we as parents model good self-esteem practices such as avoiding body shaming, celebrating everyone’s differences and being open to friendships with people of all ethnicities, abilities and backgrounds, we can foster an environment of safety and acceptance where children will want to be themselves.

By practicing active listening, setting age-appropriate goals and interacting positively with your child, you can help build and maintain her self-esteem.

How do you help increase confidence in your child?


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