Five Ways To Boost Self-Esteem
Anita Cleare, positive parenting expert and author of the Thinking Parenting blog, shares some simple tips to help parents boost children’s self-esteem in everyday family life.
Self-esteem is how we think and feel about ourselves. Children are more likely to be happy, have good relationships and be successful at school when they have positive self-esteem. A child’s self-esteem is influenced by feeling loved and valued by the people around them and by believing good things about themselves. So parents can boost children’s self-esteem by providing lots of everyday opportunities for children to experience success and by celebrating their achievements however small.
1. Encourage independence
Recognising children’s achievements isn’t just about doing well in sport, music or school. The little things matter too. When children do things for themselves, without adult help, they have an opportunity to feel proud of themselves. So encourage your child to be independent – teach them to get dressed by themselves, make their own beds, butter their own toast and wash their own hair. These little daily triumphs can really help children feel successful. And make sure you praise them for it too.
2. Use believable, descriptive praise
Being praised for their achievements boosts children’s self-esteem. But praise only works if it is believable. Children’s self-esteem is not helped by overblown or generalised praise – so constantly telling your children they are amazing isn’t effective. If you tell your child he played really well in a football match when he obviously didn’t, that’s not believable. It won’t help him develop a good opinion of himself (and it might make him less likely to believe what you say next time). Be specific and praise your child for concrete achievements. Comments like ‘Well done for keeping on running even though you were losing’ or ‘Thank you for speaking so kindly to your sister’ tell your child exactly what they have done well and what to do again next time. Focus especially on effort and progress – knowing that when they try it helps them get better at something is a great self-esteem booster.
3. Listen to their ideas
Expressing their ideas, being listened to and making decisions all help children feel valued. Involve your child in practical family problem-solving like what to do at the weekend or whether to go to the shops before or after lunch. Ask for their ideas and listen to their suggestions (even if they’re a bit daft!). This doesn’t mean that your child gets to decide everything but listening to their opinions helps children feel that they are making a positive contribution to the family.
4. Encourage laughter
Laughter releases feel-good chemicals that make us feel happy in ourselves. Spend time with your child doing things you both enjoy. And don’t be afraid to be silly sometimes. Play together. It might be running around play, or dressing up, or a game of Snap!– it doesn’t really matter as long as you are both engaged and enjoying it. Chat. Share jokes and funny stories. Spend half an hour watching something funny together. Having fun is good for parents as well as children! And it’s great for helping children relax and feel good about themselves.
5. Show you care
Every child needs to feel that they are loved. Be affectionate. A snuggle on the sofa, a ruffle of their hair, a big bear hug. Make sure your child knows that they are accepted for exactly who they are and that who they are is utterly lovable. And when you have to tell them off (because no child is perfect!), make it clear that it is their behaviour that is undesirable not them. Find lots more tips on positive parenting on Anita’s blog Thinking Parenting.
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