Every parent dreams of raising a child who is confident but not cocky, who is self-assured but sensitive, and who feels empowered to make choices and follow their passions. Even if, as parents, we suffer with low self-esteem ourselves, there is much we can do to enable our children to learn to love themselves and to be an active participant, rather than an observer, in their own lives.
1. Start with you
Our children learn far more from what we do rather than the lessons we try to teach them. In the way we conduct ourselves each day, we teach our children how to be. We act as role models and inspire our children. So if we model high self-esteem, our children are more likely to develop high self-esteem too.
For those of us with low self-esteem this can make us worry that we’re doomed to pass on feelings of self-doubt and negativity to our children, but that needn’t be the case. Whilst we can’t fundamentally change our personalities overnight, we can think carefully about the way in which we portray ourselves each day. We can think about what we choose to say aloud. We can make a conscious effort to present the best version of ourselves.
When we’re struggling with issues of self-negativity, a good way to redress the balance is to try and see yourself through your child’s eyes. When they are young, kids tend to adore their parents unconditionally. Don’t question it, embrace it, and try to channel the parent your adoring child sees whenever self-doubt creeps in.
2. Tackle negative self-talk
When we talk badly about ourselves, it reinforces low self-esteem. Again, we should start with ourselves here and make a conscious effort not to talk badly of ourselves. It’s remarkable how often self-critical phrases creep in when you listen out for them.
Additionally, any time we hear our child talk negatively about themselves, we should question it. Ideally we should not just dismiss their concerns, but rather provide evidence to the contrary, or balance negative self-talk with meaningful compliments.
3. Give feelings names
When we struggle with difficult thoughts and feelings, it can really pull down the way we feel about ourselves and our place in the world around us. When we give these feelings names and are able to explore them, it can help us to understand and manage them, reducing their impact on how we feel about ourselves.
Help your child to understand the different ways they feel, both physically and emotionally, so that your family has a shared language for both positive and negative experiences, which will enable open sharing and support.
As well as helping your child to name their feelings, you need to give them an opportunity to talk about them. This can work best if we get into a habit of listening early on. If we build listening into our daily routine, our child gets used to being heard and will more readily share with us at specific points each day.
This will enable us to understand what’s going on in our child’s life as well as tackle difficulties and misconceptions early on before negative thoughts and feelings become entrenched and embedded.
5. Be a stable base
Whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, they need a stable base from which to explore the world. They need to understand the rules you set and be able to predict likely outcomes from their actions. They need to be able to rely on you to look out for them and to support them.
Once they know that they can rely on you, they’ll be ready to walk away and become more independent and self-assured.
6. Let your child spread their wings
Watching our children grow more independent is one of the most nerve-wracking things we ever go through as parents. However, if we want our children to develop self-confidence and assurance, we need to have the confidence to let them go. We can’t live their lives for them, we need to provide them with the tools and encouragement they need to go out and take risks, make mistakes, and reap the rewards of starting to find their own place in the world.
7. Celebrate uniqueness and diversity
Show tolerance of others in all that you say, and celebrate what makes each member of your family unique. Never expect children to live up to expectations set by siblings, nor to fulfill your own childhood dreams. Instead, help them to develop their own skills and talents and enjoy these individual differences.
8. Empower decisions that have impact
Let your child see that they make a difference in your family. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Invite their opinions on decisions both big and small, like what should we eat for dinner? Where should we go on holiday? Also, be prepared to listen to and act on their answers. This way your child learns that their view is valued and that they can be an active participant in family life.
9. Be honest about your mistakes
There are few mistakes we cannot learn from. You teach your child a far more valuable lesson when you hold your hands up and say you got something wrong. They can look for the learning there, better than when you try to portray an image of perfection each day.
10. Don’t forget to say “I love you”
Finally, we need to remember to show and tell our kids that we care about them. As parents, the love we feel can overwhelm us. It might seem impossible that our children could fail to know that they are loved; however, you should never assume your child knows how much you love them. Instead make an effort to show it and say it out loud. We all know how good it feels to be loved.
This is no different for a child. Actually, it can be an important bedrock of self-esteem, as well as making family life just that little bit more pleasurable each and every day.
Sometimes children can act so mature and it becomes easy to forget that children are still children. They’re still developing in all sorts of ways, especially mentally. Find out how you can support your child’s emotional needs here: https://www.onthematma.com/supporting-childrens-emotional-needs-during-the-pandemic-part-1/