Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Raising Your Child’s Self-Esteem: Step 3

Encourage Your Child Constantly

It may seem obvious that parents need to encourage their children if high self-esteem is to develop. But often in our hectic lives we tend to focus solely on discipline, rather than on guidance and encouragement. We tend not to pay much attention when behavior is positive, but we exert a lot of energy when we see behavior that needs correcting. Here’s an idea: try doing the reverse!

Spend more time attending to positive behavior than to negative behavior

Make your disciplinary statements short and sweet, without harshness. Say many more things that praise your child. You can even turn your disciplinary statements into praise statements. For instance, a negative correction might be, “No more TV. It’s homework time.” A praise statement might be, “I like it when you start your homework as soon as I ask you to. It makes me feel good to see you take such responsibility for your schoolwork.”

Engage in small and easy ways
 to encourage self-esteem during the course of a day

Anytime you see your child do something well, let him know. Write caring notes to your child and sneak them into a lunch box or leave them out on a bedroom pillow. Spend fifteen minutes a day of “special time” with your child. Let him decide how to spend that time with you. Go with his flow and enjoy!

Encourage your child’s independence

Listen carefully when he tells you about his problems. Avoid answering questions too quickly. Let your child struggle a little to find his own solutions. Allow your child to make choices. “Which shoes do you want to wear?”
 “Who do you want to play with this afternoon?”
 “Do you want green beans or broccoli for a vegetable tonight?”

Allow your child to do things for himself. Assume that he can complete tasks without your help, and most of the time he will surprise you. Perhaps you dress your four-year-old each day, assuming he can’t dress himself. If you allow him to dress himself and praise him for doing so, he will feel more confident. (Be careful not to criticize his clothing choices.)

Check back Wednesday for Step 4


Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP


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