Healthy self-esteem development is essential for the success and well-being of every child. And summer is a perfect time to give your kiddo’s self-esteem a powerful boost so he can hit the ground running when school starts this fall. Here are seven sure-fire habits to build into your daily repertoire with the kids this summer (note: I use male pronouns for reading ease throughout this blog post but advice can be applied to children of all genders):
1. PROVIDE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
A lot of parents think too much love or affection will make their children “soft.” While you definitely don’t want to dote on your kiddo, your child needs to know you’ll love him no matter what, otherwise he’ll be afraid to make mistakes and tell you the truth. So enough with the empty threats to ship him off to boot camp or disown him if he doesn’t behave.
2. CRITICIZE ACTIONS, NOT CHARACTER
When your child does something truly atrocious, it’s absolutely acceptable and effective to let him know how much you disapprove. But choose your words carefully. So if Timmy steals a pack of gum from the store, communicate to him that stealing is morally wrong, illegal, and will not be tolerated in your family instead of harping on about what a bad boy Timmy is and questioning when or if he’ll ever learn.
3. VALIDATE FEELINGS
Validation is the art of recognizing and accepting your child’s internal experience as being valid. Validation of feelings is key for healthy emotional identification, expression, and effective coping. If you consistently ignore or discount your child’s emotions, he’ll learn that his feelings aren’t real or meaningful, which can lead to major self-esteem issues. For example, if Timmy hits his baby sister, validate his anger by saying, “Timmy, I know you’re feeling angry at Baby. It’s okay to be angry, but it is not ok to hit. What else can we do so that you can handle your anger? Validating a feeling doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the emotion, but it communicates understanding and acceptance.
4. GIVE RESPONSIBILITIES
Even a 4-year-old child can perform basic chores, such as clearing his dishes from the table or putting away toys and personal belongings. Giving your child responsibilities at a young age helps him contribute in a meaningful way to the family. It also communicates to him the importance of his role in the family system and provides great opportunities for specific praise and positive reinforcement.
5. ENCOURAGE HEALTHY RISK-TAKING
Avoiding fear is not beneficial for healthy self-esteem and can lead to symptoms of anxiety and even depression. Your child needs to learn how to experience and manage fear, even if the outcome of the situation is undesirable. So encourage little Timmy to take a chance and join the soccer team. Even if he only plays for one season, he’ll gain confidence and feel better about himself knowing he faced his fear instead of avoiding it.
6. SPEND QUALITY TIME
Spending quality one-on-one time is essential for any relationship, including your relationship with your child. It doesn’t have to be for long and you don’t have to do anything extravagant or expensive. Read a book together, take a walk, ride bikes to get some ice cream- basically anything that doesn’t involve a screen or an electronic device will suffice. Showing your kiddo he’s important by devoting time solely to him provides a fantastic backdrop for healthy self-esteem development.
7. MODEL POSITIVE SELF-ESTEEM
Don’t bash yourself or your partner in front of your child. Children learn by example and model themselves after those around them. If you’re berating your spouse for losing the car keys, your child will learn that’s an acceptable response when someone makes a mistake. Instead, model acceptance (not agreement) when making mistakes to help your child learn that failure is a healthy and inevitable part of life.
If you’re truly serious about boosting your child’s self-esteem this summer, pick one habit to focus on per week. In seven weeks, you’ll have tried them all and can then go back to revisit the habits that weren’t as easy to adopt.
Got a thought, suggestion, or comment to share about self-esteem? Harmony At Home welcomes your feedback.