Tips And Activities To Boost Your Child’s Self-esteem
With experts associating self-esteem with success and well-being, it is important for parents to understand how to develop or boost their child’s self-esteem. Here are some simple tips and activities.
By Arun Sharma
Self-esteem can be defined as what an individual thinks about herself, or the amount of respect an individual has for herself.
A child with low self-esteem shows lack of confidence, feels incapable of completing tasks, is reluctant to move out of his comfort zone and explore unfamiliar territories, and nurtures negative emotions such as frustration, anger and shame.
On the other hand, a child with excessive self-esteem is prone to putting his own needs first, indulge in risky behaviours, and have problems in relationships.
But, experts believe that a healthy level of self-esteem, or self-esteem in moderation, in children is associated with better academic performance, increased confidence in their potential, and better ability to cope with frustrations.
“A child with self-esteem is more willing to take a risk, try new things and stretch outside their comfort zone. As they are not as daunted by the fear of failure, they might set higher goals for themselves too. They do not feel threatened by competition, as they will believe that while they are good, so are others. They are open to mingling with everyone and do not hang out with just the 'popular' kids. Also, since their sense of identity is not tied to external things, they will not be so hung up on wearing or having only 'branded' stuff (In the hope that the brand will elevate their sense of esteem of being 'in').” —*Aparna Samuel Balasundaram
While the development of self-esteem is an unending process, and levels of self-esteem keep fluctuating, here are some age-appropriate ways of boosting your child’s self-esteem.
Newborns and infants are too young to develop the sense of self-esteem, as they are yet to develop the sense of self. However, there are quite a few things you can do to lay the foundation for a healthy self-esteem in your baby. Some of the things you should do are:
- Respond quickly when your baby cries and comfort her.
- Hold her close for skin-to-skin contact.
- Make eye contact and engage in lots of cuddles and smiles.
- Talk to your baby in a gentle and positive tone.
As your child turns into a toddler, he starts showing increasing signs of independence and eagerness to explore his surroundings. Toddlerhood is an important stage where, as a parent, you can develop your child’s self-esteem. Some of the things you can do are:
- Respond when your child needs you. For example, when he is frightened or frustrated
- Allow him to explore his surroundings and make decisions. For example, the clothes he wants to wear while going to play in the park or toys he wants to play with.
- Teach him to be assertive and to say ‘No’. Along with teaching these to your toddler, you should also learn to respect his wishes. For example, when he says ‘No’ to putting on that ‘red cap’ while going out to play, respect his decision.
- Have conversations. Engaging your child in a conversation gives him a chance to pour his heart out. And, listening to him attentively makes him feel that he is important to you.
- Teach him how to deal with situations he finds unacceptable. For example, sharing his favourite snack or waiting for his turn to play with his favourite toy.
By the time your child is a preschooler, she would have a highly-developed sense of imagination, very low level of, or almost no, separation anxiety, would enjoy playing group games, can wait for her turn, and display a sense of humour. She would also compare herself with others around her. To boost your preschooler’s self-esteem, you should:
- Focus on her strengths to help her develop a sense pride. For example, you can say, “Your friend rides his cycle faster than you, but you run faster than him.”
- Praise her efforts to build her confidence. For example, you can say, “As you are practising to write more, your handwriting is improving.
- Help her express her feelings. Talk with your child to help her give vent to her feelings. And during the course of your conversation, allay her fears and encourage her to open herself to you.
- Make her understand fair play. As your preschooler loves playing with her peers, teach her about how to be fair and that success and failure is a part of everything she does.
- Show your affection. Although your child is a lot more independent and active now, she still longs for your affection. So, don’t make your love conditional and express it only when she does something good. Shower her with your hugs and kisses whenever you feel like.
For primary schoolers:
As your child starts attending school, his intellectual abilities are challenged. Also, he begins comparing himself with his peers. This is when his self-esteem levels can fluctuate. Here’s what you can do to take care of his self-esteem.
- Watch out for signs of trouble. Issues like learning difficulties, bullying, poor socialising skills can affect your child’s self-esteem. So, keep your eyes open for deviations in your child’s mood or behaviour and investigate the cause.
- Establish a good parent–teacher relationship. Attend regular parent–teacher meets and build a good rapport with your child’s teacher to understand how he is performing in class.
- Equip him with conflict-management skills. As your child’s social circle increases, so would the number of disagreements and conflicts. Teach your child how to resolve problems that may arise between him and his peers.
- Teach goal-setting and planning. As the challenges in your child’s life increases, it becomes important to teach him how to set realistic goals and come up with plans to achieve them.
While you involve yourself with the serious business of boosting your child’s self-esteem, here are some fun activities that you can make your child do to give his self-esteem a fillip.
- List of wins: Making your child recount his successes is a great way of boosting his self-esteem. Give him a sheet of paper and pencil and ask him to make a list of his successes.
- Positive personality traits: When your child’s friends come over for a play date, introduce them to this new game. Make them sit in a circle, and give every one of them a sheet of paper and pencil. Ask them to write down the name of one friend and write his positive qualities against the name. Repeat this for all the friends.
- Precious memories journal: Give your child a diary and ask him to write down the happy moments all of you spent together.
- List positive experiences: This is a variation of game #2. Make them sit in a line while you sit at some distance. Write the name of one child on a sheet of paper. Now call the children one by one and ask them to write one positive experience they had together with the child who name is written on the paper.
Parents exert the greatest influence on young children. So, make sure that you influence your child in a positive way by helping him develop positive qualities.
*Aparna Samuel Balasundaram – is an award winning Psychotherapist, Parent and Child Expert, with 10 years of experience in the USA. She is the Founder of Life Skills Experts that enables parents and teachers to raise happy, confident and successful children. www.LifeSkillsExperts.com. She is also the Founder of ‘A Flourishing Me’, that offers contemporary Counselling and Parent and Life Coaching [www.AFlourishing.me]
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