Simply praising your child can actually do more harm than good. Here's a comprehensive guide to building self-esteem in children.
Let your child take healthy risks
Start by forcing yourself to stand back while your child takes healthy risks, says Victoria Sopik, CEO of Kids & Company, a corporate childcare service in Toronto, and a mother of eight. “To build confidence in the world, kids have to take chances, make choices and take responsibility for them,” Sopik says. She sees too many parents trying to rescue their kids from failure all the time.
Sopik remembers staring from across the room as her two-year-old son, Fraser, lifted a huge jug of orange pop at a fancy party. “He was about to pour it into a glass, and I just stood there, holding my breath,” Sopik recalls. Rather than trying to save her son before he had a chance to try, Sopik watched as Fraser spilled the pop all over the floor.
Then came the best part: Fraser found a waitress, asked for a paper towel and cleaned up his own mess. “He solved his own problem – just like we do as successful adults,” Sopik says.
Let kids make their own choices
When kids make their own age-appropriate choices, they feel more powerful, says Sopik, pointing out that kids as young as two can start considering the consequences of their decisions. Sopik always let her kids decide on their own whether to wear a coat, hat and mittens in winter. “Once they knew the difference between warm and cold, it was up to them. They should have control over their bodies and take responsibility for their choices,” she says.
Let them help around the house
In building self-esteem, kids also need opportunities to demonstrate their competence and feel that their contribution is valuable, says Taylor. At home, that means asking them, even when they’re toddlers, to help with cooking, setting the table and making beds.
Encourage them to pursue their interests (fully)
Another surefire way to boost confidence in kids is to encourage them to take on tasks they show interest in, then make sure they follow through to completion. It doesn’t matter what the task – it could be anything from swimming laps to beating levels in video games. The point is for them to stick with what they start, so they feel that hit of accomplishment at the end.
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