What Kids Need: Self Esteem

Less than half of today’s youth report that they feel good about themselves.  Does that shock you?  As an educator of many years, I must admit that it still surprises me when I hear that number.  So how do we, as parents, work on kids’ self-esteem?  I will discuss six ways to work on self-esteem with kids to make a big difference in their lives.

First, express your love for your child daily.  Tell them that you love them and why you love them.  What do you like about their personality?  What is it that they do that is kind of quirky that you enjoy?  When you do this daily, kids notice, communication improves, and the general harmony of the home grows right along with it.

Second, find something unique about them and enjoy it, tell them that you like it when they sing off-key, or whatever it might be. By possessing a smile, humor, or a quirky trait, you’re letting kids know that they can be themselves, that it is okay, and that you want them to be themselves without reservation.

Third, when a child makes a mistake or an adverse judgment, let them know by ensuring that you separate the deed from the person.  Let them know that you still love them, that you love unconditionally, not dependent on an absolute constancy, but that the behavior you’re not crazy about and would like them to address it.  By separating the behavior from the person, we acknowledge that any one of us at any time can make a wrong choice.  The most important aspect is to learn from it and to recover, to move on.  Don’t dwell on their choice; if it comes up again in another situation, remind them that they have already been there and need to make a better choice.

Fourth, please talk with your child without yelling.  I came from a home that had a great deal of yelling and verbal abuse.  It does affect one’s self-esteem and self-confidence.  I remember my older brother saying to me one time, “You used to have all kinds of confidence; what happened to that?”  I wondered the same thing for such a long time.  What did happen to it?  I want it back, and I need to find that again.  Treat your kids with respect, even when acting otherwise, and listen to them without giving advice.  If you want to try something challenging, try listening to your young person without interrupting or giving advice.  It is tough, but I guarantee that they will notice it immediately.  This one will make a big difference in the life of your kids.

Fifth, offer a reason why you’re saying no to something. By taking a minute to explain your thoughts, you open an opportunity to teach them something important.  By taking the time to discuss a reason, you help them to see beyond their needs and wants for something.  It helps them to think further, which requires frontal lobe parts of the brain.  Remember, the frontal lobe develops last in kids, and using this type of logic isn’t something they have the skill to do often.

Sixth, encourage your kids to keep a list of the accomplishments and beautiful things that they do.  Sit with them regularly and add on to the list in a journal.  When things aren’t going so well, help them pull out the journal and remember the good times, the beautiful efforts they made, which paid off.  Helping kids in this area allows them to develop their own “emotional bank account,” as Stephen R. Covey refers to in his landmark book, ” The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.”  Stephen talks about building up an emotional bank account with others so that when we make an inadvertent withdrawal, we will have some equity with the other person.  I say to apply this concept to yourself as well by keeping a journal of your accomplishments.

I challenge parents this week to work on self-esteem with their child in these six ways and see what a difference it makes.  Make it a daily habit to help build their confidence and, thus, resilience to life.  You will be delighted that you did this as a parent when they are in their twenties.

For more information on kids’ self-esteem, please see Your Child’s Self-Esteem (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth

A related blog post that I have written may be found at What Kids Need: Self-Esteem – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)


Yours for Better Parenting,