Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Though many of us look back on our childhood and long for a simpler time, we all too easily forget that being a kid can be tough. Not only are kids confronted daily with new experiences, but they are also struggling to identify who they are as individuals and what their place in this world is. During this phase of their lives more than any others, the opinions of their peers can strongly impact their sense of self. Therefore, as a parent, it’s important to encourage your children to establish a healthy perspective and self-image.

Boosting your child’s confidence may seem like quite a challenge, especially considering that low self-worth is actually quite common. Don’t ignore the signs; watch for your child having trouble navigating social landscapes and connecting with other people, or preferring to spend too much time alone.

What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is how a person values themselves, and there are many outside influences on it. As a parent, you can do two things to help boost your child’s self-image: let your child know how much you value him or her, and give your child opportunities to accomplish challenges. Below are some suggestions to keep in mind when interacting with your child.

1)      Show unconditional love. We truly want the best for our children and, when they do something impressive, it’s natural that we would want to reward them with praise. However, it is important to give affection and love, to show pride and be happy with your child even when they’re not giving you bragging rights. Reward effort, not success. Make sure that you recognize effort regardless of the outcome. Saying things like, “you showed a lot of determination when you studied for that test,” or, “I’m proud of the way you didn’t give up during the race” will demonstrate how life is about more than simply winning/losing.

2)      Empower your child through hobbies. School is extremely important, but so is having a well-rounded set of interests outside the classroom. By allowing your child to explore activities like music, art, sports and more, you’re allowing youngster to cast a wider social net to accumulate friends as well as develop skills that make them feel good about themselves. So what if he gets picked last for kickball at recess; he’ll feel right at home amongst his friends at karate practice! Additionally, hobbies allow your children to explore interests that excite them, further defining passions outside of the school’s cookie-cutter curriculum. The sense of accomplishing a goal for your own satisfaction is much different than completing it for a letter grade; the sense of pride that comes from creating a beautiful painting or scoring a goal in soccer can be priceless. Whether you enlist your kids in martial arts so they can learn discipline or feed their passion for dance or even buy your children a musical instrument like these to provide them with a creative outlet for their emotions, fuel their passions – even when those passions are different than your own.

3)      Don’t coddle. We all want to protect our kids and make their lives as easy as possible, but sometimes you’ll need to take a step back and let them figure things out on their own. Your child will feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when (s)he overcome a difficult task like tying a shoe or doing a craft project from start-to-finish; by diving in to rescue the day, you’re depriving your child of the positive sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Even with only the best intentions in your heart, you’re subtly sending the message that your little person is somewhat incapable.

4)      Avoid minimizing your child’s feelings. What may seem like a big deal to your children will, at times, literally seem like child’s play to you. Is the younger sister upset because the older sister gets to stay up later? While you certainly don’t have to succumb to your younger one’s demands, don’t devalue their honest emotions. Listen and verbally empathize to demonstrate that your child’s thoughts are valued; if the expressed sentiments or the negative emotions behind them seem abnormal, don’t dismiss them as being “silly.” There could be some underlying issues like fear of abandonment, anxiety or feelings of worthlessness that are at play.

Above all else, make sure that your children are encouraged to be their wonderful selves! Laugh at their goofiness, foster their individuality and certainly don’t compare them to others.

Do you have your own tips on how to help your kids build their confidence? Share with us below!