Updated: Oct 6, 2019
We all know what a lack of confidence looks like. It can be second-guessing, fear of leaving a comfort zone, or even allowing yourself to be treated poorly by others. Self-esteem is one of the most important skills to build in order to thrive in life. This absolutely essential skill is one that is shaped when we are young.
The sooner self-esteem is taught to children, the higher chance they will have of navigating the world with confidence as they grow older. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of the actions that will impact this life skill. This can lead to language, or an environment, that is actually negatively impacting the kiddo's self-esteem.
So, how can you build self-esteem in your child? Here's how...
1. Validation, Validation, Validation
It is human nature to want to feel validated. Nobody wants to feel like their thoughts, feelings, or opinions are meaningless. We all feel a bit of a sting when we try to talk about something important to us, and we can sense the lack of interest from the person we are trying to talk to.
Kids are no different. In fact, children take this hit much, much harder. Although a child may not say something when they are made to feel invalidated, they will hold onto that feeling. They will remember how they were made to feel as they tried to communicate their thoughts. As a result, they will feel that their thoughts are not worth the time, slowly leading to low self-esteem.
So, how can we make sure that we are validating our children's feelings?
Luckily, there are tons of simple ways to do this.
Asking them about the activities or hobbies that they are involved in, as well as asking them to teach some of it to you is a great way to increase self-esteem through validation. If they're playing soccer, ask them what their favorite position is. Maybe ask them to teach you how to properly block a goal. The more they can feel the interest you have in their interests, the more confident they will feel about themselves.
2. Language is Everything
Many of us have a habit of wording things in a way that can rub people the wrong way. We don't mean to hurt anybody's feelings, but the language we used caused that effect anyway. Children are especially sensitive to the words we use with them, as well as the way we phrase things to them.
If a child is struggling to learn how to write their name, a parent may ask, "why are you having such a hard time with that?" Reading that question, you may not see anything wrong.
However, a child hears this and feels like they are being attacked, and as though their ability is being questioned. If their own parents are questioning their ability to do something, and pointing out that they are failing, how are they supposed to muster up enough courage to keep trying?
We must really focus on the way we phrase and word things to children because this has a huge impact on their takeaway, as well as their future view of that activity and themselves.
Instead of asking why they are struggling, try helping them brainstorm solutions to overcome the problem, as well as offering positive reinforcement.
Ex: "That 'T' looks so great, why don't we try to figure out how we can make the 'W' look similar?"
This alternative phrasing offers a boost of confidence as you are telling them something they did correctly. It will motivate them to master the next letter so they can achieve that same feeling.
3. Positive Self-Talk
For kiddos to build confidence it's not only important for their parents to avoid talking negatively to them, but they must avoid it too. When was the last time you made a mistake and verbally expressed how disappointed in yourself that you are? Probably pretty recently, since it's human nature to be hard on ourselves.
We think that just because we are targeting this insult towards ourselves that it won't affect the kids around us. Unfortunately, that's not entirely true.
Kids look up to their parents and are much more likely to model what they observe from them, rather than what they are told. So, if you breathe positivity into your kiddo through praise and compliments and tell them that they shouldn't give up on something, you should model that behavior for it to fully catch on.
If we tell our kids to keep trying and believe in themselves, but we walk around berating ourselves, what kind of an effect do you think that will have? The child will think, "Well, mommy (or daddy) messed up and are mad at themselves, so I should be too."
Now, I'm not saying that having a bad day and slipping up is going to wreck your little one's self-esteem. We are all human, I get it.
However, creating a habit of belittling yourself every time you make a mistake may have some lasting effects.
Instead of getting mad at yourself, try to solve the problem and focus on how you solved the problem when talking to your kiddo.
Ex: "I accidentally burned the chicken I was making, so I put some more on the stove and paid a little bit closer attention to the time. It turned out great after that!"
This statement instead shows the child that mistakes can be made, but it's not the end of the world, and there is always an opportunity to fix them.
This may seem a little bit far-fetched and over-dramatic, but sometimes that's exactly what kids need in order to learn. If we want to raise children who will exceed in life, we need to be willing to put in that extra effort and feel a little bit cheesy from time-to-time.
Kids soak up the language and environment they are exposed to like a sponge, so act and speak how you would like them to.
Nobody ever said parenting was boring, right?