5. Promoting Self-Esteem
To promote healthy self-esteem in children, parents must strike a balance between discipline and encouragement.
The most important thing of all in the development of young children’s self-esteem is our unconditional love for them.
Children must feel and understand that our love will never be dependent on their actions, their successes, or their failures. It is this state of mind that allows them to embrace the unknown and to continue to progress despite the inevitable failures that come along with learning new skills.
But be careful not to let unconditional love prevent the imposition of authority or limits. Instead of developing their self-esteem, the absence of limits promotes the feeling in children that they can do no wrong and renders them incapable of dealing with frustration. It is necessary to establish limits and to be firm (without being judgmental). The desired result is only reached if effort and respect are taken seriously.
Self-esteem means loving ourselves for who we are, for our strengths and our weaknesses, and it is based on having been loved this way since birth.
Advice: How to promote the development of a child’s self-esteem
As parents, we have a big influence on our children, particularly when they are young. Here are some ways to help build up children’s self-esteem:
Praise children’s efforts and successes. Note that effort is always more important than results.
Don’t hesitate to reiterate to children that error and failure are not the same thing. Show them that you’re proud of them, even when they make mistakes. Reflect with them on how to do better next time.
Let children complete household chores; give them a few responsibilities they can handle. They will feel useful and proud.
Show children that we love them for who they are, unconditionally, and not for what they do or how they look.
Let children express their emotions and inner thoughts.
Assist children in finding out who they are. Help them to recognize what they like and where their strengths lie.
Encourage them to make decisions. For example, let them choose their own outfits.
Invite them to address common challenges (according to their abilities and age).
Pitfalls to avoid
Avoid being overprotective. Not only does this prevent children from learning, it also sends them a negative message: that they are incapable and unworthy of trust.
Don’t criticize them incessantly. If we’re always making negative comments about our children, and if we show ourselves to be unsatisfied with their work or behavior even when they’re doing their best, they will get disheartened.
If children don’t act appropriately, stress that it is their behavior, rather than their personality, that must change. For example, it is better to explain that an action they may have done is mean, rather than that they are themselves mean.
Always be respectful towards children. Never belittle them. What we say to our children has a great impact on their self-image.
Show them we’re interested in what they’re doing. Don’t ignore them. We are still at the center of their universe.
Don’t compare them to their siblings or to other children their age. (“Your four-year-old sister can do it!”) Highlight how they are progressing without comparing them to anyone else.
Case Study 5