Self-Esteem in Kids
H. Dan Smith, EdD, MFT

If you don't feel good about yourself, it is difficult to be very happy. No matter what your accomplishments, if the expectations you place on yourself exceed the concept you have of yourself, your self-esteem is low.

Use these ideas to help your child build a strong sense of self:

1.PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHILD'S FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS. The basis of feeling good about yourself is a strong sense of self. Every time you listen to your child, you are saying, "What you think is important to me, because you are important."
2.TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO GIVE SELF-FEEDBACK, AND TO PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE. Although it is important for a child to hear criticism, it should not damage the child's self-concept. As such (and with your help), children need to learn to put things in perspective. Example: "Yes, I did poorly on the math test, but that doesn't make me a bad person or stupid. I did well on the history test, and I can learn the math with some help."
3.PRAISE YOUR CHILD. Give your child honest but specific praise in many different areas. Find things to praise about your child's weakest points as well as the strong points. Some parents mistakenly believe that it is not wise to "praise expected behavior," such as doing chores well or meetings some other expectation. Kids need to feel good about expected tasks, too, and praise is the only way to assure these good feelings.
4.LOOK FOR REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Although your child should not define him/herself only in terms of what they can do, accomplishments are a vital measure of growth. Introduce your child to various activities and arenas so self-concept is rich and varied.
5.TEACH YOUR CHILD TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT IS DONE WELL. Unfortunately, most people focus easily on their weaknesses but have difficulty recognizing their strengths. Regularly talk to your child about what they have done well. Example: "Tell me something you did at school today you thought you did well."
6.GIVE UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE FEEDBACK. You love your child because he/she is your child. Your child should love him/herself because of their uniqueness. Make sure your child knows your love is predicated on these things and not something that can ever change.

Much of the work of developing a positive sense of self is done alone, but it can't happen if the atmosphere is not supportive. While the child's sense of self is developing, YOU remain the best model and facilitator for positive development.

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