How to Encourage Self-Esteem in a Child

Self-esteem is how we define ourselves and how we think others view us.  Self-esteem is a belief or idea that can become ingrained in our psyches early in life.  A child wants and needs his parents’ approval beginning at birth and, if he doesn’t feel as if he’s loved or approved of, he can start to feel as if he can’t do anything right.  His self-esteem plummets and he becomes withdrawn and shy.  There are some guidelines a parent can follow to make sure a child’s self-esteem is nurtured so that he can feel more confident in his ability to try new things and interact with others, as he grows older.

Be a Role Model to the Child
Children watch and learn from their parents and identify with them.  If a child observes that their parents are confident and positive in their actions, they are more likely to be confident and positive.  If a parent has no pride in himself or the child perceives that others have no respect for the parent, they are more likely feel like he should have no pride in himself. But, more importantly, parents must praise each one of the child’s accomplishments and make him feel loved.

Connect With the Child
It is important that a child feels as if he’s a real part of the family unit.  He has to feel he’s an important part of the parents’ lives and that he is loved and cherished.   If he has siblings, he has to feel as if his existence is just as important to the parents as any other child in the family.  Parents should make a child aware of his heritage and be shown how proud he should be to be a part of that heritage.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and any other part of the child’s extended family should be introduced to the child early in life.  Teachers and leaders in the church should be an important part of a child’s life and should be shown respect by them as much as the child giving respect to them.

Give the Child Praise
It’s important that parents praise children.  This should not be general, generic praise such as “you did great”, but should be specific praise.  Parents should find one specific point in an accomplishment and expound on it.  An example would be to tell the child that “the home run he hit won the game” or that the colors in the picture he colored “are really beautiful and nothing is colored outside of the lines!”  Generic praises are a dime a dozen but specific, genuine praise is priceless in a child’s eyes.

Tell the Child It’s Okay to Be Different
A child’s uniqueness should be celebrated and is imperative to a child’s self-esteem.  If a child has the ability to do something no one else can, then a parent should support that.  All parents have dreams of what their child will accomplish in life and it’s not always easy to accept that a child is going in another direction than what the parents expected of him.  What should be supported is the dream that the child has for himself.  If he is allowed to follow his dream and is supported by his parents in that dream, his self-esteem will be boosted immensely

Empower the Child in Certain Circumstances
It is not good to let a child rule the household, but it is important that a child feel he does have some control over circumstances in his life.  Encourage the child’s participation in sports, music, dance, or any other number of things he’d like to try.  This will allow the child to realize he does have skills that he can excel in.  A child should be encouraged to participate in decisions affecting his punishments for bad behavior as well as his rewards for good behavior.  This way there will be no disagreements when it’s time to give a punishment or a reward.  The child will already know what is expected and will not feel so powerless.  Developing a sense of understanding of what is expected from the child will keep a child’s self-esteem high.

It’s not always what a parent wants that is most important.  Developing a child’s self-esteem is a parenting responsibility and steps should be made from birth to make sure the child feels good about himself.

About Marion Witte

Marion Witte was born and raised on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. It was there that she acquired her Midwestern work ethic and her philosophy of helping others. Marion enjoyed a successful career as an entrepreneur, and upon selling her various business interests she began pursuing a life of philanthropy. She is passionate and outspoken about the need for radical changes in the way we view children and parenting. Her memoir “Little Madhouse on the Prairie” relays the story of her life, and it is the basis of her commitment to this work. She founded and manages the Angel Heart Foundation and its sister organizations “Next Generation Parenting” and “Brave New Leaders.”

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