Doesn't it feel great when you're having one of those days where you feel really confident? You strut around the office or the house, jutting your chest and bum out like a Kardashian, and you feel like you can do anything.
It may not happen often, but it feels good when it does; and every parent wants their child to feel the same.
That's where self-esteem comes in: it's the balance between feeling loved and feeling capable. A child could be in a loving environment but have low self-confidence because they are given misdirected praise, or not given the chance to succeed; and a child with great capabilities could feel low because they just don't feel loved.
So how do you support this fine balance?
Start with you
Your son or daughter isn't going to feel amazing about themselves if they spend every day watching you dragging your sorry arse around the house, moping from room to room looking glum. Work on your own self-confidence, and your child will start to mirror you.
Create a loving environment
It sounds obvious, because it is. A child won't have self-confidence if they don't feel safe or loved in their own home. Make your home a haven away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, somewhere where they can relax and feel secure.
Had a rough day at work? Stressed out with the chores at home? Get yourself on the floor, call upon the spirit of Hulk Hogan and wrestle with your kids. Not only will they love it – unless they're watching something really interesting on TV – but pinning you to the carpet and jumping on your stomach will make them feel like a winner.
Allow them to take healthy risks
Note that I said healthy risks. I'm not telling you to give your child blazing fiery torches and tell them to juggle, nor am I suggesting you encourage them to try and fly from the top of the nearest slide.
Healthy risks are things like allowing them to try new food even though they might find it disgusting, or letting them try riding a bike, or play with someone new. And, even though the urge is overwhelming, don't step in to save the day if you can see they're struggling, because...
...children learn from their mistakes
Telling a child what is right and wrong, good and bad, might sink in eventually – but it's no substitute for allowing them to make mistakes by themselves. It gives you an opportunity to ask them how they would do the task differently next time, and encourages them to think for themselves, and therefore feel more capable.
Be positive and specific
So your son has traipsed around behind you patiently whilst you spend ages walking up and down each aisle of Sainsburys, trying not to succumb to every offer and/or fill your trolley with a thousand bars of chocolate.
Instead of just saying "You were great!", be more specific in your praise. Tell him that you are really proud of the fact he was so patient, and he'll know exactly what he did right; and he'll feel even better for it.
Say nice things within earshot
So you encourage and praise your child all the time to their face, and that's great, but just imagine if they heard you tell your partner/friend/family member/postman that earlier today your son was really patient in Sainsburys.
You know they can hear you, but they think you're just having a conversation with someone else, and hearing you praise them to another person does wonders for their self-esteem. Imagine if you walked past your manager's office and heard them praising you to someone else!
When your child presents you with a piece of paper containing just a single scrawl of Biro, resist the temptation to tell them it's the best piece of art you've ever seen; it could do more harm than good.
Overpraising can lower the bar, indicate to them that your expectations aren't very high, and prevent them from reaching their full potential. Praise them well, but be realistic with it. Your child knows his artwork isn't on a par with Picasso's, and he'll trust you less if you bombard him with misguided and over-eager praise.
Help them bloom
Never ever compare your child to one of their peers, because it'll ruin their self-esteem.
Don't moan that they're not patient like Timmy in their class, or that you wish they could have better table manners like their cousin Jane. Praise them when it is due, and discipline them accordingly as well: but don't compare them to others.
There's a saying which goes something like 'a flower doesn't worry about competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms'. Help your child to bloom.
Let them help around the house
We all know what it's like to do boring household chores, and all you want is to get them done as quickly as possible. But when (or if) your child offers to help, avoid the urge to brush them aside and instead take them up on it. Their input, however slight, will really help them feel like they're contributing something, and make their self-confidence skyrocket.
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