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Quick summary: Tiffanie Noonan, DO challenges us all to learn the steps we can take to help support our child in developing high self-esteem.

“I want my child to be a happy, self-confident person.”

Having asked hundreds of parents what they hope for when they envision their child as an adult, a variation on the sentence above ALWAYS is mentioned.

We hope for your children to be self-confident. We hope for them to feel good about themselves. We hope they know that they are enough.

Today, we get to set hope aside and talk about actual steps you, as a parent, can take to BUILD your child’s self-esteem.

 

Yes, YOU can actually do more than “hope” that future vision into reality.

Let’s begin by actually taking a look at the four components that make up the whole package of what is referred to as self-esteem: significance, competence, power, and virtue.

What does that REALLY mean?

  • Significance relates to feeling loved and cared about.
  • Competence is a reflection of how someone compares themselves with others.
  • When referring to power, we’re talking about having some control over being who a person feels they truly are.
  • And believing you are a good person, that is virtue.

When you break self-esteem down into these components, I hope it’s easier for you to see that these factors are NOT just random things that we should hope for.

They are absolutely something that can be nurtured by parents and the environment in which a child grows.

 

What are the things you can actually DO to create this environment?

As self-esteem starts with feeling safe, loved, and accepted, it’s important to understand how those feelings are nurtured (and what erodes them).

 

Step Back

At every stage of development, it is important to let your child make choices, take risks, and solve problems.

Although this may sound obvious, it can be harder to put into practice than it seems.

Part of stepping back is letting go of the idea that you know what is best for your child. Stepping back may mean watching them make mistakes and NOT intervening.

Think about it.

What is your child learning if you often jump in to challenge their decision or fix their mistake?

It may not be your intention (I’m almost certain it is not), but that sends the message that YOU do not trust them to make choices or believe they are capable.

Growing up in an environment where you believe your parents don’t believe in you plants seeds of self-doubt that can linger for a lifetime.

So, even though it’s hard, let the toddler spill the milk as they try to make their cereal.

 

Let Them Make Choices

As children get older, the number of choices they get to make about their life should increase.

Even though you know it is cold outside and you would prefer for your child to wear a coat, once they are old enough to understand being cold and how to fix it, it is okay to let them decide.

Trust them to consider the consequences and learn from the results if they make what would seem like the wrong decision.

That example may sound silly, but tell the truth … have you ever had a power struggle with a toddler over a coat? I’m raising my hand. When we know better, we do better.

 

Even though you know it is cold outside and you would prefer for your child to wear a coat, once they are old enough to understand being cold and how to fix it, it is okay to let them decide. #parenting #health Click To Tweet

 

Avoid Overpraising 

As I mentioned above, self-esteem comes from feeling loved and secure AND developing competence.

For most things in life, we are not born competent! That takes time and effort.

Your praise will feel like a lie if you’re going on about how amazing something was when, in fact, it could use work.

Confidence comes from trying … and failing … and then trying again.

 

Praise Effort 

On the subject of praise, it’s a great idea to get very intentional with what you say.  What do I mean? “I’m so proud of how smart you are.” Sounds great … until your child struggles with a class and doesn’t want to let you know because you won’t be proud of them anymore. Praising “smart” can actually erode self-esteem as soon as there is an academic struggle – and there will be.

 

Confidence comes from trying … and failing … and then trying again.

 

It’s a great idea to avoid only praising results or fixed qualities. What would be another way of acknowledging an academic achievement? “You’re a great learner.” Being a “great learner” is not a concrete concept. It is not tied into a result and can be true regardless of whether a class or subject is a challenge.

 

Encourage Competence

Would you agree that it feels good to learn something new and continue to improve until you feel you are good at it?

Even as adults, I hope you continue to push yourself to learn new skills!

Keeping this in mind, you get to help your child learn to do new things.

For example, let them help around the house.

When teaching, show them first, then let them try (and make mistakes – remember “step back” from above?).

As a bonus, this allows them to feel that their contribution is valuable!

 

Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem: Don’t Leave it to Chance! Click To Tweet

 

Keep Your Worries in Check

Let’s be honest, we worry about our children.

As you watch your child struggle or fail at something, don’t lose sleep over it.

The best way for you to help your child to believe in themselves is for you to learn tools to see failure as an opportunity to actually build self-esteem.

You get to manage your own anxiety without projecting it onto your child.

 

The best way for you to help your child to believe in themselves is for you to learn tools to see failure as an opportunity to actually build self-esteem. Click To Tweet

 

Encourage Goals 

Your child will have their own interests.

Paying attention to what they are interested in, and encouraging them to pursue the FULLY, is a wonderful way to help build positive self-esteem.

As a parent, you can help them make sure that goals are level-appropriate, challenging, and attainable.

Achieving goals helps build belief in self that will be carried beyond that specific area of focus.

Your child will have their own interests. Paying attention to what they are interested in, and encouraging them to pursue the FULLY, is a wonderful way to help build positive self-esteem. Click To Tweet

 

Be a Good Role Model 

Arguably one of the most important aspects of creating an environment where your children develop high self-esteem is being a good role model.

“Do as I say, not as I do,” has no real place in parenting (even if you heard it all the time growing up!).

In your own life, I encourage you to put effort into tasks, model a positive attitude, ban harsh criticism – from others and self (“gosh, I’m so lazy), and focus on your own strengths.

Each of the above approaches will help foster an environment that provides ample space for significance, competence, power, and virtue.

 

As a parent, you can help your child make sure that goals are level-appropriate, challenging, and attainable.

 

That being said, knowing what to do is not the same as actually knowing how to do it and putting it into practice.

Be kind to yourself; this can be hard! Many of us were NOT parented in the way that makes these tasks second nature!

It will take conscious effort to recognize and change old patterns.

 

Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem: Don’t Leave it to Chance! Click To Tweet

 

Congratulations if you find any of the above steps challenging!

You get to MODEL setting a goal and taking the steps to learn how to succeed.

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Tiffanie Noonan, DO

Pediatrician, Founder of EPIC Parenting, and Parenting Coach

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