As a parent, you have the greatest influence of building confidence and self-esteem in your child. For the first 4 or 5 years, parents are the most important contributor. Once a child starts school, teachers and friends begin to play an important role in building confidence and self-esteem. And once he reaches adolescence, his peer group has an incredible impact. The more positive his confidence and self-esteem is before adolescence, the easier it will be for him to resist negative peer pressure. Good self-esteem comes from feeling capable while also feeling loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but doesn’t feel loved may eventually develop low self-esteem. And a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his own abilities can also experience low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when a good balance is maintained. Confident kids are kids who learn early on how to make their own decisions and solve their own minor problems.
Here are four simple strategies for building confidence and self-esteem in your child:
- Give unconditional love: A child’s self-esteem soars when he feels the kind of no-strings-attached devotion that says, “I love you, no matter who you are or what you do.” He benefits the most when you accept him for who he is regardless of his strengths, or weaknesses. So lavish him with love! And tell him often how much you love him. When you have to correct him, make sure he knows it’s his behavior — not him — that’s unacceptable.
- Be willing to let him fail: Give him the freedom to try something new, to do something for himself. Self-confidence comes from being willing to fail. It comes from being willing to fall down and get back up again. It comes from knowing that things won’t always go perfectly every time and that’s okay. It comes from being a problem solver rather than expecting someone to come to your rescue. Give your child the freedom to make mistakes. Then congratulate him on learning something new.
- Provide encouragement: Every child needs the kind of support that says “I believe in you!” So tell him that. Tell him you believe in him. There’s a difference between praise and encouragement. One rewards the task, the other rewards the person. Encouragement means acknowledging his progress — not just rewarding his achievement. So if your child is struggling to put on his shoes, resist the urge to do it for him. Tell him “You’re trying very hard and you almost have it!” Praise can make a child feel that he’s only “good” if he does something perfectly. Encouragement, on the other hand, acknowledges the effort.
- Pay attention: Carve out some time to give your child your complete, undivided attention. That does more for your child’s confidence and self-esteem than just about anything else. It says, ‘you matter to me’. Look him straight in the eye when he’s talking to you. It sends the message that you think he’s important and valuable. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time; it just means giving him your undivided attention in that moment instead of looking at your phone or doing something else while he’s talking to you. Your eye contact will let him know that you are really listening to what he’s saying. He needs to know that his thoughts, feelings, desires, and opinions matter.
Patterns of self-esteem start very early in life. As kids try and fail, try again, fail again, and then finally succeed, they develop ideas about their own abilities. They are also developing a self-image based on the interactions and responses from other people. This is why early, positive, parental involvement is the key to building confidence and self-esteem.