It’s not always easy to watch your kids take chances. It’s not easy to let them fail or to stand by while they manage their struggles.
But that’s exactly what children need to build confidence and self-esteem, said Doug Straight, a licensed professional clinical counselor in the Division of Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Failure is an important part of self-esteem,” Doug said. “You set goals and keep trying. You’re not going to be successful in everything you do, but you have to try.
“It’s out of that struggle that they really learn who they are and their worth.”
Here are his tips to help children develop self-esteem:
- Praising kids for everything they do does not promote self-esteem. Rather, you want to focus on praising kids for their hard work, their progress, and for gutting out challenges.
- Support your kids, but don’t rescue them from their problems.
- If your child is having trouble with a teacher or coach, your first impulse may be to intervene. In some cases, that may be warranted based on a child’s age and the circumstance. But refrain from always stepping in. Encourage teens, especially, to take charge and make choices. “Managing a situation that causes stress is a healthy way for teens to build a sense of self-worth,” Doug said.
- Teens in particular may be reluctant to talk about setbacks or problems that affect their self-esteem. Keep lines of communication open.
- Avoid shaming your kids. Expressing disappointment is fine, but avoid putdowns.
- Don’t criticize their performance in sports or other pursuits. It’s okay to talk about mistakes, but the focus should be learning from them.
- Let your kids know you love and accept them for who they are, even if you’re disappointed in their actions.
- Teach them to take pride in accomplishments. Even if they didn’t get the A in math, let them know you’re proud of how hard they worked for a B.
- Praise the little acts that make you proud, like being considerate of others. People won’t remember your teen’s grade-point average, but they will remember how he or she treats others.