Encourage Areas Of Competence
Help your child find areas of competence as stepping stones on the road toward high self-esteem. Support your child in finding his strengths (sports, computers, music, drama, and so on) and encourage his involvement in these activities. If your child struggles in areas that society highly values, such as school or playing team sports, he may feel tremendous self-doubt. Children need to experience a sense of accomplishment to feel good about themselves. It’s up to you to help your child discover his areas of competence and reinforce those strengths.
It sometimes can be difficult for parents when their children have interests that are very different from their own. For example, I once worked with a man named John who was a former professional football player. John’s son, Tony, was quite uncoordinated and hated sports. John tried to get his son to play sports with him, but Tony resisted. Instead, Tony spent his free time collecting things – stamps, action figures, beanie babies. Tony often asked his father to help him with his collections, but John wasn’t interested and brushed him off.
“Maybe later, son.”
It took John some time to deal with his own feelings of disappointment in not having a sports-playing son. Once he did, however, he recognized how he hurt Tony by not supporting his interests. John began to help Tony with his collecting. This not only helped improved Tony’s self-esteem, but it also brought father and son closer.
I’m often asked the question, “What if my son wants to play the same thing all the time? Should I still encourage it?” Yes, but within limits. As an example, let’s say you have a child who plays on the computer a lot. I have seen children playing computer games nonstop, often for hours on end. They obviously feel safe and confident in that arena. In this case, I would recommend that you limit the amount of time on the computer and encourage your child to challenge himself in different ways. Perhaps he could use his talents to help other children and become a computer tutor.
Check back for Step 2 on Friday.
Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP