When your child misbehaves, you find yourself responding easily. You correct bad behavior in order to form her character. Noticing good behavior can be a little more complicated, however. You want your child to have a healthy self-esteem but you don't want her to become egotistical or narcissistic. However, realistic recognition of your child's accomplishments and strengths is an essential part of her maturation to confident adulthood.
Be honest. When your child complains that she never scores a goal at soccer practice, don't lie and assure her that she is a soccer star. Instead, point out a real talent. For instance, you could say, "You may not score goals, but nobody else has your team spirit" or "You're still learning to play soccer, but all the practice you've put into piano is really starting to pay off." Offer a personal strengths and weaknesses assessment too. Say, "I was never much of an athlete, but I sure can cook."
Be specific. If you tell your child over and over again that she is special, the word will lose its meaning. Instead offer concrete examples of your child's accomplishments and take notice of her successes -- however small. For instance, you might tell your child how proud you are of her good grade in English class. Pediatrician William Sears, M.D., recommends using your child's name with words of praise to give them extra weight. You might say, "Sarah Elizabeth, your dad and I are so proud of the hard work you put into your English homework."
Create a family wall of fame. Post your child's report cards or hang a sports trophy in a place of honor. Every child excels at something. Discover your child's gift and put it in the spotlight.
Let your child hear you brag. The next-door neighbor probably doesn't want to hear a litany of all your child's latest deeds, but when your child is in earshot, drop a word or two about one of your child's accomplishments. Your child will glow when she realizes you've noticed her efforts.
Be affectionate and sincere. Give your child plenty of hugs and kisses. Let her know that your love is not conditional on her successes or accomplishments.
- Be on the lookout for signs of low self-esteem including negative speech, lack of persistence and chronic pessimism. Contact a professional counselor if you suspect your child has self-esteem issues.
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