Hats off to all the moms and dads out there.
Seriously, you deserve it.
Being a parent is easily one of the hardest tasks that anyone will endevour in their lifetime. There are all kinds of challenges and obstacles, and what’s worse is they not only multiply as your kids get older, they also get way more complex as time goes by.
One day your kid’s biggest problem is needing a diaper change, the next, they’re deciding what career path to follow.
One of the most important, and most difficult challenges in raising a child is ensuring they develop a healthy level of self-esteem. A lack of healthy self-esteem lies at the root of all kinds of mental health disorders, and is fundamental to creating success in almost all aspects of your child’s life, from social relationships to academic and career success down the line.
The late Dr. Nathaniel Branden, arguably the preeminent author and researcher in the field of self-esteem defined self-esteem as:
“The experience that we are appropriate to life, and to the requirements to life. Self-esteem is: confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life and confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.”
Building your child’s self-esteem is much more complex than simply handing out hi-5s or giving indiscriminate compliments – it is a deliberate, complicated, multi-faceted process that requires understanding, patience and persistence at home, at school and in the community.
Win the morning, win the day…
The morning is one of the best opportunities for building self-esteem in your kids.
True, there is probably a lot of chaos in the morning too, but there is also opportunity for goal setting, task completion and genuine, directed praise.
Many successful authors, business people, and parents cite the mantra “win the morning, win the day”, meaning that even small victories early on in the day create positive momentum for the rest of the day.
In the context of building self esteem, the same principle applies, in that creating opportunities for building self-esteem early on will not only reinforce positive actions from your kids (ie. making their bed), but on a subconscious level encourages them to seek out other opportunities to build on their self-esteem.
We put together a simple checklist to help you take back your mornings and set up a great day for your kids. Click below to download it now.
The Danger Of Praise
I’ve already knocked the idea of praise for its own sake when it comes to building kids’ self esteem – and just to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with praising your child… However, as Dr. Branden states in his book The 6 Pillars of Self Esteem: “inappropriate praise can be just as harmful to self-esteem as inappropriate criticism”.
We must be careful about describing and appropriately placing our praise. The more specifically targeted our praise, the more meaningful it is to the child. Praise that is generalized and abstract leaves a child wondering what exactly is being praised.
If we state what we like and appreciate about a child’s actions, manner, or accomplishments, we remain factual and descriptive, leaving the child to make their own mind up about themselves. This is a powerful way to encourage your child to build healthy self-esteem, through their own judgements of themselves and their actions, rather than from an external validator, like a parent or teacher.
Make Them Feel Visible
Visibility essentially equates to attention, and attention is currency to kids.
Feeling visible means feeling seen, heard and understood, which is essential to the healthy development of self-esteem. This may seem elementary, but it goes a long way in the social development of a child.
The simplest way to encourage a child’s sense of visibility is to look at them when they are speaking (literal visibility). Making eye contact with your child is a non-verbal communication that they matter.
The next most simple way is taking opportunities to empathize with them – when they come to you with emotion, recognize and acknowledge their state. For example, if a child bursts into the house after school, full of joy and excitement, and Mother says, smiling “you’re happy today”, the child feels visible. Compare that to how a child feels if Mother yells “do you have to be so noisy?”
When I was young, listening to my dad take work calls, I remember noting how calm and polite he was when talking to clients, and how different it was to how he spoke to my brother and I. I’m sure he meant no harm, but at the time, it made me feel as though we were less important than his colleagues and clients. In my own mind, I was less visible than people he didn’t even like.
When we convey love, appreciation, empathy, acceptance and respect, we make a child visible.
In my opinion, a lack of self-esteem is one of the most insidious, most widespread, and most detrimental issues when it comes to raising children. A lack of healthy self-esteem limits them immeasurably in life, as it colours all of their thoughts, feelings and interactions.