Raising confident children

Extended Family Relaxing On Sofa At Home Together
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Kids with low self-esteem can find challenges to be extremely frustrating. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. “I can’t” or “I don’t want to” are common responses when our children question their ability to accomplish a task or play a sport. How many times did we say, “I hate P.E.!” when we were kids? Does that sound familiar?

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem can be defined as feeling capable while also feeling loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities can also develop low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when a good balance is maintained.

What can you do as a parent? 

Parents and caregivers can promote healthy self-esteem by expressing encouragement. Our children need to know that they are loved and supported, regardless of a “not so perfect” test score.

Avoid focusing too much on one specific area, such as success on a spelling test. This can lead to kids feeling that they are only appreciated when they are successful or only when they make Mom and Dad look good.

According to the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, the following are ways that you can support the development of your child’s self-image:

  1. Embrace your child’s appearance. When we embrace our children’s hair texture and skin color, the child looks in the mirror and likes the person he sees. He looks inside himself and is comfortable with the person he sees there as well. He must think of this self as being someone who can make things happen and who is worthy of love. Parents are the main source of a child’s sense of self-worth.
  2. Nurture your child. Do things that make your child feel valued and loved. Remember the hugs and cuddles we tend to give our children when they are infants? This touch makes babies feel good, and we do it in response to their cry or laughter.

For example, baby raises her arms and a parent responds by picking her up. Repetition deepens these patterns in the infant’s mind, and eventually emotions, positive or negative, become associated with them.

The same is true of children. As parents and caregivers, we must continue to nurture our children well into adulthood. Failure to do so may result in stunted emotional growth and well-being.

  1. Improve your own self-confidence. A child’s self-esteem is acquired, not inherited. Certain parenting traits and certain character traits, such as anger and fearfulness, are learned.

Having children gives you the chance to become the parent you wish you had. If you suffer from low self-confidence, especially if you feel it’s a result of how you were parented, take steps to heal yourself and break the family pattern.

Try this exercise to help raise a confident child (therapists call this “passing on the best, and discarding the rest”): List the specific things your parents did to build your self-image. Then list the specific things your parents did to weaken your self-image.

Now resolve to do the good things your parents did and avoid the rest. You and your children will be glad you did!


Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to mcintyre_tammy@rocketmail.com.