HAVING a healthy self-esteem is a major key to academic and social success in school and in life. In fact, research shows that a positive self-concept is more important to academic success than a high IQ. Here are some guidelines you can follow to help foster your children's self-esteem:
Look at each child as a unique person: Make every effort not to compare a child with his or her siblings or classmates. Instead, focus on each child's many talents and assets rather than on what he or she does not have or cannot do. Be supportive of his or her interests.
Have realistic expectations: Make sure your expectations fit your children's ages, backgrounds and temperaments. Teach children how to set realistic goals for themselves and how to accomplish them.
Allow your children to make mistakes: Help your children understand that mistakes are a part of life and teach them not to feel defeated when they make one. When your children do make a mistake, help them learn from their experience by talking to them about what happened and what they could have done differently. Teach your children problem-solving skills so they will know how to tackle challenges when they encounter them.
Plan for success: Create situations that minimize your child's chance of failure by breaking down complex tasks into a series of easy to follow steps, and provide plenty of opportunities for guided practice and training.
Give lots of encouragement: Recognize your children's efforts and improvements rather than only their accomplishments. Help your children develop their talents and strengths. Also, encourage self-appreciation and positive self-talk in your children.
Be generous with praise: Get into the habit of looking for situations in which your child is doing something well or displaying a talent. Then praise him or her about what you saw.
Give choices: Help children develop a sense of ownership and responsibility by allowing them to make some of their own choices. These choices should be appropriate for the children's ages and levels of maturity.
Give children responsibilities: Give children opportunities to help with household chores. Do not do for your children what they can do for themselves.
Show your children love and acceptance: The first and most important step to building a healthy self-esteem in children is showing them they are loved and accepted by the most important adults in their lives – their parents. Children must feel secure they are loved, even when they behave badly.
Help children realize their attributes: Help your children discover their special talents and qualities. Once they identify things that make them unique, they need to learn to value them.
Enjoy your children: Spend time with your children. Do things together as a family but also ensure that each child has some individual time with you on a regular basis. Spending time one-on-one allows your child to share his thoughts and feelings openly. During this time, parents should listen carefully to the things their child says, and provide lots of praise and encouragement.
A healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things parents can help their children develop. It will help your children succeed in school and beyond. By guiding them through their challenges and providing opportunities for success, your children will gain the confidence and independence to take care of themselves.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 22 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.