Nurturing your toddler's self-esteem is essential to boosting his self-worth and laying the foundation for your child's development as he tries things on his own. Self-esteem is believed to come from having a sense of belonging, believing that we're capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile. As a parent, you want to ensure that your child develops pride and self-respect — in himself and in his cultural roots — as well as faith in his ability to handle any life's challenges - whether social or educational. Here are ten simple strategies to help boost your child's self-esteem:
Give unconditional love. A child's self-worth blossoms with the kind of no-strings-attached devotion that says, "I love you, no matter who you are or what you do." So go ahead and lavish your child with love. Give him/her plenty of cuddles, kisses, and pats on the shoulder. And don't forget to tell him/her how much you love them.
Discipline with love. Your child benefits the most when you accept him/her for who they are regardless of strengths, difficulties, temperament, or abilities. And if/when you do have to correct your child, make it clear that it's his behavior — not him — that's unacceptable. For instance, instead of saying, "You're a being a bad boy! Why can't you be good?" you can say, "Pushing (friend's name) isn't nice. It hurts and gives him an ouchie." This also allows your child to develop empathy.
Give undivided attention. Carve out time to spend one-on-one time with your child. This sends the message that you think s/he's important and valuable. It could just be a few minutes of talking/ reading/playing/interacting on some level while making eye contact and affirming your child's self worth. When you're strapped for time, let your child know it without ignoring his needs. Acknowledge them by saying something like "tell me about the tower you built with your legos, and then I'll make dinner."
Set limits. Establish reasonable rules for your toddler/preschooler - make sure it's something they can follow like eating snacks at the dinner table or cleaning up after playing. Be specific with your rules, if you tell him to put his dirty close away - make sure to tell him where they go (hamper) and make sure he understands that's the only place they go (ie not the floor or his bed). Rules give children a sense of security and stability. It may take constant repetition initially, but with some encouragement he will learn to follow the rules. If you're clear and consistent while show him that you trust him to do the right thing, he will.
Support taking healthy risks. Encourage your child to explore something new, such as trying a different food, finding a new pal, or riding a bike, etc. Though there's always the possibility of failure, without risk there's little opportunity for success. So let your child safely experiment, and resist the urge to intervene. If he's showing frustration with a task, don't try to "rescue" him. You'll build his self-esteem by balancing your need to protect him with his need to tackle new tasks.
Celebrate the positive. Everyone responds well to encouragement, so make an effort to acknowledge the good things your child does every day within his earshot. They'll enjoy hearing good things said ABOUT them as opposed to TO them. they'll get to bask in the glow of your praise and the person's heartening response. Be specific about what your your child did. This will enhance his sense of accomplishment and self-worth and let him know exactly what he did right.
Let mistakes happen. These are valuable lessons for your child's confidence. So if your child puts his juice too close to the edge of the table and it tips, encourage him to think about what he might do differently next time. That way his self-esteem won't drop and he'll understand that it's okay to make mistakes sometimes. Also, when you goof up yourself, admit it, so he sees adults make mistakes too but show him what you do to correct them. Acknowledging and recovering from your mistakes sends an important message to your child to accept his own shortcomings.
Listen well. If your child needs to talk, stop and listen to what he has to say. He needs to know that his thoughts, feelings, desires, and opinions are heard and matter. Help him get comfortable with his emotions by labeling them. Say, "I understand you're sad because you have to say bye to your friends." By accepting his emotions without judgment, you validate his feelings and show that you value what he has to say. If you share your own feelings ("I'm excited about going out to see a movie"), he'll gain confidence expressing his own.
Resist comparisons. Comments such as "Why can't you be more like your brother/sister?" or "Why can't you be nice like (a friend)?" will just remind your child of where he struggles in a way that fosters shame, envy, and competition. Sometimes even positive comparisons, such as "You're the best player" could be potentially damaging since a child can find it hard to live up to this image. If you let your child know you appreciate him for the unique individual he is, he'll be more likely to value himself too.
Find the balance between encouragement and praise. Make sure to reward the task, not just the person to let your child know you acknowledge his efforts as well as his accomplishments. Provide the kind of support encourages progress — not just rewarding achievement. So if your preschooler is struggling to fasten his seat belt, you could say, "You're trying very hard and you almost have it!" instead of "Not like that. Let me do it." offer empathy and acknowledge his feelings. You can dole out the praise judiciously and offer encouragement liberally - it will help your child grow up to feel good about himself.
And for a bonus eleventh tip - enjoy your time with your kids. Really learn to appreciate the special moments - your kids already do!
A Mother's Haven takes pride in trying to help our "moms" with any issues, questions or concerns. We support your child rearing views and encourage mothers to trust their gut and feel empowered by motherhood. We're always here to be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. Feel free to give us a call at (818) 380-3111 or drop by the store.
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16101 Ventura Blvd. Suite 230
Encino, CA. 91436p. (818) 380-3111 w. shopthehaven.com