|Self-esteem is how we feel about
ourselves, and our behaviour clearly reflects those feelings. A child or
teenager with high self-esteem will be able to:
take pride in his/her accomplishments
attempt new tasks and challenges
handle positive and negative emotions
handle anger appropriately
On the other hand, a child or teenager
with low self-esteem will:
avoid trying new things
feel unloved and unwanted
blame others for his/her own
feel, or pretend to feel, emotionally
act out with huge rage and fear in
be unable to tolerate a normal level
put down his/her own talents and
be easily influenced
Parents, more than anyone else, can
promote their child's self-esteem. Here are some ways of building
When you feel good about your child,
tell them. Parents are often quick to express negative feelings to
children but often forget to show positive feelings. A child doesn't
know when you are feeling good about him/her and he needs to hear you
tell him/her that you like having them in the family. Children remember
positive statements if they are said often enough and are genuine. They
use them as part of their armour against the world. Practice giving your
child genuine words of encouragement at least once each day.
Be generous with praise and let your
child know when they are doing something well. Get into the habit of
looking for situations in which your child is behaving really well or
displaying a talent. When your child completes a task you could say,
"You made a really good job of tidying your room" or " You did really
well to keep your cool today when it must have been difficult"
Teach your child to practice making
positive self-statements. Self-talk is very important as what we think
determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave, so it
is important to teach children to be positive about how they "talk to
themselves." An example of positive self talk is: "I handled that really
well" or " Iím getting better at Maths because I worked hard this term"
or even "Wow, my sister got the better of me and I didnít hit her"
Avoid criticism that takes the form
of ridicule or shame. Sometimes it is necessary to criticise a child's
actions but when the criticism is directed to the child as a person it
can easily deteriorate into ridicule or shame. It is important to learn
to use "I statements" rather than "You statements" when giving
criticism. For instance say, "I would like you to keep your room a bit
tidier as it will make you feel better as well as me" rather than saying
"Why are you always so lazy? Donít be so useless" Make it the BEHAVIOUR
that you donít like, not the CHILD!
Teach your child about
decision-making and to recognise when he/she has made a good decision.
Children make decisions all the time but often are not aware that they
are doing so. There are a number of ways parents can help children
improve their ability to consciously make good decisions which will in
turn allow the child to feel good about themselves and will reinforce
and raise their self-esteem rather than lower it.
Parents can make an important
contribution by pointing out or suggesting alternatives if the child has
none. Allow the child to choose one of the solutions only after fully
considering the consequences. The best solution will be one that solves
the problem and simultaneously makes the child feel good about
him/herself. Afterwards, consider together the outcome of using that
particular solution. Did it work out well? Or did it fail? If so, why?
This will help the child to make a better decision next time or feel
good about themselves and using the solution which worked out well.
MORE WAYS help children develop a positive
Teach children to rephrase the way they ask
for things, ie instead of: "I want ÖÖ.." or "Get me/give meÖ..", try to
get them to change it to " I would likeÖ" or "Would it be OK if IÖÖÖ"
Encourage them to ask for what they want assertively rather than
aggressively, pointing out that there is no guarantee that they will get
it but it is more likely if they ask in the right way. Be friendly and
try not to imply that they are being useless if they canít do something
ie if they feel intimidated asking for something in a shop, help them to
practice by going with them the first time Ė try not to force them to do
something they feel unsure of in public Ė itís better to teach them how
to do it or support them so that they feel confident enough to do it
All children and teenagers need to accept
responsibility for their behaviour. Let them know that they are
responsible for their behaviour and not you or anyone else. Likewise,
they are not responsible for others' behaviour. Avoid blaming children
for how you feel. To help children learn self-discipline, the parent
needs to teach and support rather than punish and criticise.
Encourage your children to develop hobbies and
interests which give them pleasure and which they can pursue
- Help your children develop a tolerance of
being teased. Teasing in school and between peer groups is inevitable
and self-confidence will help your child to deal with it. Help them
learn to cope with teasing by ignoring it while using positive self-talk
such as "names can never hurt me" and "I have to deal with this in a
different way because if I react to it, it will never stop whereas if I
laugh it off, it will stop" The same can apply to bullying as long as it
- Help children learn to focus on their
strengths by pointing out to them all the things they can do rather than
things that they canít.
- Encourage your children to behave toward
others the way they'd like their friends and family to behave toward
them. For example, if they canít bear being criticised, itís likely that
they will use criticism to others as a tool to wound. Are you, the
parent, using criticism against them? Are they using it toward you?
- Laugh with your children and encourage them to
laugh at themselves in a gentle and kind way. Compassion and empathy are
important qualities that your child needs to develop and use towards
others as well as expecting that others will be compassionate and caring
Finally, be friendly and warm and loving towards
them even when they are behaving badly. Thatís not to say you must
tolerate bad behaviour but rather make sure that the behaviour is modified
by raising self-esteem, not by lowering it and they are offered