The Happiness Connection  

Creating self-esteem in kids

When I wrote about five essential parenting skills last week, I didn’t explain why they are so important.

Thank you to everyone who contacted me, wanting to know more.

The best thing parents can do for their children is to send them into their adult life with a strong, positive sense of who they are and the skills they need to be happy and successful.

This may seem like a tall order, but it boils down to one main gift. You want your children to love and believe in themselves.

Self-esteem, self-love, self-belief, and self-confidence all have slightly different meanings, but I tend to use them interchangeably in this conversation.

Believing you can get up when you fall, are worth loving and being respected, and will find a solution to deal with whatever comes your way, are the keys to self-esteem.

If you want to increase self-esteem, try using the following principles.

  • Belief comes from experience
  • Self-care is imperative
  • Do no harm

Let’s start with the first one.

There is a misguided belief that if you tell your children often enough that they are smart, beautiful, or talented, they will take your word for it and believe in themselves.

You know hearing negative things can tear down your confidence, so surely hearing positive comments will build it up.

This is not the case.

In fact, research carried out by Dr. Carol Dweck shows that praise can be more of a hindrance than a help unless you praise the right things.

If you say you are proud of me because I did well at school, or scored a goal in a big game, what happens if I don’t do well, or I play badly?

Does that mean you won’t be proud of me?

Children don’t consciously process these thoughts; they are deeply embedded in their subconscious minds. If they believe your love is attached to results, they stop caring about learning and focus purely on how well they do.

With this mindset, if they don’t think they will succeed, they’d rather not try.

Learning comes from making mistakes and having unexpected outcomes. You want to encourage your children to try new things without fear of being a disappointment.

If you want your words of encouragement to honour learning rather than outcomes, praise effort and perseverance rather than grades and results. In this way you are supporting the experience they are having not whether they succeed.

It is better for them to believe that if they work hard, they can do whatever they want than thinking they need to be the best.

I’d like to share the parenting approach of a friend.

The first time I was at her house, I watched her two pre-school children open a sealed box with a pair of large, sharp scissors.

My first reaction was alarm, until I glanced at my friend. She was watching them without any sign of concern. I was too polite to say anything at the time, but as I got to know her more, I realized the gift she was giving them.

Rather than wrapping them up in cotton wool so they didn’t get hurt, she taught them how to use the scissors carefully. Then, she showed them that she trusted they could do it.

Now, that is how you give children a healthy dose of confidence.

She and her husband now have three children, and they continue to teach and then trust. Her youngsters have more confidence and self-belief than many adults do.

Their method seems counterintuitive, but it works.

They are allowing their family to learn how capable and resilient they are through experience. And they are learning this at a young age.

You can’t give another person the gift of self-esteem, you can only support them while they discover it for themselves.

Give them the skills and then show them you believe and trust that they can succeed. Even if it doesn’t happen the first time they try.

The tips I wrote about last week all support this theory.

By letting everyone take their own path and reinforcing the belief that each journey is unique to the person involved, you are fostering collaboration rather than competition.

There is room for lots of people to succeed in this world. The amount and types of success available are infinite.

If you allow your children to fall and don’t rush in to save them, you are providing them with evidence that they are resilient. If they got up once, they can do it again.

Falling is part of life. This is where the learning lies. It should be accepted openly not hidden or avoided. As I often say, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Failing to achieve a desired outcome doesn’t say anything about the person involved. Failing, doesn’t make you are a failure. It makes you a learner, if you let it.

Take time to talk with your children when things don’t work out, the way they hoped. What did they learn? They will be able to take this lesson with them the next time they encounter a similar situation.

As a parent your job is to give unconditional love, dry tears, and encourage conversation.

The second principle also fosters self-esteem. Teach that self-care is not selfish. The best way to do this is to model it yourself. Everyone is worthy of being looked after. You are the person who understands your needs best.

It’s easy in our society to believe that you should put everyone else’s needs before your own. Like they say on an airplane, put your own oxygen mask on first. You won’t be able to help anyone else if you can’t breathe.

Lastly, do no harm. Help your children understand they should love themselves without doing anything that hurts others or their environment. This will help those parents that worry about producing arrogant offspring.

The human mind is complicated. It’s nice to hear good things being said about you, but the only way to have good self-esteem, is through experiences.

For those readers who wanted to know more about how adults can improve their self-esteem, I’ll address that topic next week.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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