Children with healthy self-esteem feel good about themselves, relate well to others, behave well and are more aware of the world around them. If you'd like to instill these traits in your children, follow these four tips:
1. Show them you value them
Quality and quantity of time demonstrate valuing. Children need to be told directly by their parents or care-giver that they are loved -- praise, hug, kiss, cuddle, and play with them. Few things speak more to being esteemed than just being there.
Other parental behaviours that show you value your children include measures that can aggravate and annoy them -- infant car seats, seat belts, bicycle helmets, gates above stairways, locked cupboards, selective television, appropriate bedtimes and proper snacks. But parents must not be manipulated into ignoring safety concerns just because their children don't want to comply with the boundaries that are in place for their protection.
2. Let them learn
Competency is the next ingredient for developing healthy self-esteem. This means having a sense of control over one's environment -- personal, social and physical.
Parents can promote competency by providing safe areas for children to develop varied skills and by allowing them to participate in household activities such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and making beds. The goal of these activities is for the child to develop a sense of control. Participation should be fun, supportive and helpful.
The greater the control and mastery of skills a child develops, the greater the sense of competency.
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3. Participate in doing good deeds
The third thing parents can do to facilitate healthy self-esteem in their children is to direct and help them perform good deeds. This teaches children to be aware of the life of others and enables the development of empathy and altruistic behaviour. These are invaluable ingredients for creating healthy relationships and developing a sense of responsibility for making the world a better place. It's important for children to be encouraged to be helpful to the extent of their ability.
4. Make the rules of life clear
The last thing parents can do to boost their children's self-esteem is to implement structure. You can help by setting rules about how much sleep is enough, deciding when the family eats, where the kids are allowed to jump up and down, and what will happen if your child hits someone.
Parents can help their children internalize structure by commenting on daily routines, specifying appropriate behaviour, providing feedback and giving consequences for undesirable behaviour.
A good sense of self doesn't come naturally to children. It is something that must be fostered, developed and nurtured. With these four ingredients: valuing, competency, good deeds, and structure, you can help your child form the basic building blocks for developing self-esteem.
Gary Direnfeld is a child-behaviour expert, a social worker, and the author of Raising Kids Without Raising Cane (Secrets of the Trade, 1992). Since graduating with a Masters degree from the University of Toronto in 1985, Gary has not only helped people get along or feel better about themselves, but has also enjoyed an extensive career in public speaking. He provides insight on issues ranging from child behaviour management and development; to family life; to socially-responsible business development.
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