As parents, we can all agree that our children are important. But when the day is filled with school drop-off and pick-up, trips to the store, soccer practice, play dates, cleaning, mealtime, and loads more, it can sometimes feel like a challenge to be mindful in our actions to make sure our children feel important.
The good news is that you are most likely already doing many things throughout your day to let your child know that they are loved and important. In this blog post, we look at everyday ways you can help build your child’s self-esteem and value.
It starts with you
It may sound strange, but one of the first steps in showing our children that they are important to us is self-esteem building—specifically your own self-esteem. The more positive you feel about yourself, the more positive your child’s self-esteem will be. By modeling a healthy attitude towards failure or frustration, your child can learn that it’s normal to make mistakes and that we can use these moments as an opportunity to try again, problem-solve, or use a calming technique to de-escalate feelings of anger or anxiety.
Take a minute to examine how you respond to the challenging moments in your life. If you accidentally spill a glass of milk, do you: Get angry with yourself? Throw out some swear words? Or do you calmly get a washrag, clean it up, and try again? In order to help your child cope with their own defeats and difficult emotions, we need to model the behavior we want to see. This involves helping children begin to solve their own problems and finding ways for your child to comfort himself when feelings are strong. You might say, “Oh rats! I spilled my milk. I’ll get a rag to clean it up, and then try again.”
Another way to build up you and your child’s self-esteem is to focus on being healthy, energetic, and fit as a family. This will serve to reduce excess stress, giving you the resources to maintain your best self, physically and emotionally. You are giving your child (and yourself!) powerful messages of prioritizing your health while spending valuable time together as a family. Ideas for this include:
- Eating healthy fruits and vegetables
- Trying new foods as a family
- Going on walks
- Playing at the playground with your child
- Trying out a new activity such as bowling, dancing, or art classes
- Make time for family yoga or stretching at home
Showing your child that they are important
We can tell our children we love them and that they are important to us, but we can also show them in our everyday actions and interactions with them.
From the moment they enter our world, newborns and infants need constant reminders that they are loved, important, and cared for. The best way to ensure this is by meeting their basic needs and showing affection:
- Respond quickly to their cries. This will help your baby to feel loved and valued. They are learning they can count on you, they are safe, and they belong.
- Respond to smiles and coos.
- Touch and hold baby as much as possible.
- Talk, sing, share joy and laugh with your baby.
For toddler and young children
- Listen to your child’s feelings. Remember, feelings are not right or wrong. Teach your child to put names to their feelings.
- Keep your word. Apologize when you make a mistake.
- Honest praise is the quickest way to build self-esteem. Tell your child when she is doing something right, and when you see her trying hard. Be specific. “I really like the way you got ready so quickly!”
- Focus on the positive. Catch your child doing the things you like to see and let them know you appreciate it.
- Give your child responsibilities around the house that are appropriate for her age. This will give her an important sense of helping or contributing. Praise them for being a family helper.
- Set your child up for success. If your child is not able to do the whole task, let her do the part that she can do.
- Give your child choices whenever possible: “Do you want a bagel or pancake for breakfast?” “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt today?”
Lastly, show appreciation for your child’s efforts—whether it’s putting dirty clothes in the hamper or finishing a challenging homework assignment—and notice their strengths. Set aside time in your day to really listen to your child’s thoughts and opinions. Sometimes just making extra time in our busy day to be present with our child is the best gift we can give them.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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