It would be hard to believe that any parent would not want and actively strive for the best where their children are concerned.
We don’t mean the right school or the right social contacts though that does play a part – perhaps too large a part in our status-driven society. Nor do we think a big house stuffed with every luxury tops parents’ lists of what’s best for their children.
Of all the assets kids need to succeed in life – education and emotional intelligence among them, self-confidence and self-esteem are paramount.
There is a difference between those two qualities. Self-esteem is essentially how you see yourself – do you have a positive self-image or are you plagued by negativity? On the other hand, self-confidence relates to how competently you operate in any given situation.
One can have confidence in oneself without holding themselves in high esteem but the recipe for lifelong balance and fulfilment includes equal measures of belief in oneself and in one’s abilities.
These two self-perceptions drive all of our life experiences, from academic to professional and personal success. Thus it follows that building self-esteem and confidence in your child is your uppermost concern.
Your Superprof has laid out ways for you to help your child find and develop his/her best self.
Confidence-Building Activities and Games for Your Children
The earliest years of a child’s life are filled with discovery. Within a few months of birth, they learn to roll over, sit up, eat solid food and mimic sounds. Within a year, they might master feeding themselves, utter their first words and start walking.
To you, these milestones are all wondrous but your baby has no sense of awe or accomplishment at his/her newfound ability.
It’s not until age three or so that s/he realises how truly remarkable such developments are. You know what we mean if you’ve ever seen that astounded, glorious look on a child’s face that says: “Wow! Look what I’ve done!”
At that moment, s/he intuited her vast potential, firmly setting her feet on the path of discovery so that s/he can experience that momentous feeling again and again.
Sadly, around age 5 - right around the time s/he starts school, that self-driven challenge evaporates. Of course, kids still try new things but it is done more analytically than the simple "let me just try...", unformulated reasoning.
That’s when the family needs to step in, to encourage them to follow their adventure of self-discovery, to reinforce the self-belief that leads to confidence and culture the positivity that fosters self-esteem.
Physical activity promotes a healthy body image and a positive sense of self.
Thus it follows that enroling your child in a sports programme, or even if you make fitness a family affair would be a great way for them to feel good about themselves.
You might consider:
- Dance classes
- Martial Arts classes
- Fencing classes
- Yoga classes
- Joining a football or basketball team
- Joining a swim team or rowing team
Not all confidence-building physical activity requires lessons or involves teams and the whole family.
You might consider that 5- to 8-years old is the prime age to learn how to ride a bike or a scooter, roller skates or a skateboard.
If your child is older than eight, s/he might be more interested in intellectual pursuits. For them, we suggest joining a drama club to perform in community theatre. They might also want to try singing a choir or public speaking in a debate club.
If s/he is still inclined toward physical activity, s/he might like more challenging sports such as running in track and field, rock climbing or horse riding.
Teenagers and Self-Esteem
Studies show that self-esteem in children peaks around the time they are five years old – right around the time self-awareness dawns. However, by the time the teen years roll around, self-doubt often takes root.
At best, teens feel they are only good enough – by no means imbued with positive self-esteem.
You can help your teen tune out negative thoughts and improve self-confidence in a variety of ways, from engaging in activities that will showcase their strengths – be they athletic or academic, to volunteering in community projects.
Volunteering is a particularly good way to combat low self-esteem because helping others proves one’s own self-worth. It also allows people to learn the value of compassion – an important quality that rates high on the emotional intelligence scale.
And, after a rewarding day of helping others, you and your teen can talk about their experiences and then gather ‘round for a lively game of Totem.
Not familiar with it? You can read all about it in our companion article.
Books on Building Confidence in Your Children
As self-confidence and self-esteem are so important to mental health and happiness in children and adults, it is no wonder that there is a fantastic selection of books on combating perceived weaknesses and building self-esteem.
Some of them come to us from mental health professionals while others are authored by people who have undergone traumatic events. Those books detail their struggle of coping with and overcoming difficulties, coming out better and stronger in the end.
The books we found most engaging are the ones written for children.
Stick Up for Yourself is a bright, colourful paperback written in language that kids can read on their own. It helps them to understand how to be more assertive and how to find inner calm. It also includes a chapter on developing the skills they need to protect themselves from bullies on social media.
Another great selection is titled I Can Make a Difference. Its focus is on making a positive impact on the world and taking pride in themselves, their skills and accomplishments, and in their community.
While a great number of books are available for kids to explore and relate to, either in narrative form or as a self-help manual, there is an equal number of how-to books targeted at parents.
You might think that Stress-Free Kids would be an odd take on building a child’s self-confidence but there is substantial merit to the idea that, if kids can learn to cope with the stress in their life, they would be happier and achieve more.
Achievements naturally feed confidence and esteem.
So effective is this parent’s guide to helping kids find and build self-esteem that it has actually driven an entire movement called Stress-Free Kids!
Unfortunately, Ms Lite’s programme of boosting kids’ self-esteem stops just short of the teen years so, if you have a teenager who needs to rediscover the confidence s/he had only a few years ago, you might need Confidence & Self-Esteem for Teens.
This book is packed with examples of everyday life that every teenager can relate to and draw parallels from to improve their self-image.
If the idea of reading to help you and your child rediscover self-confidence appeals to you, you can find more titles in our full-length article on the subject.
How to Build Self-Esteem in Your Child
There are no tricks or special tactics for building your child’s self-esteem. You don’t have to take any special classes or send them to any lessons, either.
The best, easiest and most fundamental way to help your child build self-esteem and self-confidence is to love and value them.
That’s meant in the sense of cherishing them, not assessing their worth, of course.
A child who is valued feels accepted and understood. They feel a strong sense of inclusion and respect, and learn by experience that kindness is more beneficial than criticism.
People might think that to love and value one’s child is a given but, considering the epidemic of low self-esteem plaguing our kids, clearly, we’re a ways off the mark. How do we get back on it?
Help your child learn how to do things, anything from household chores to mastering a new skill such as riding a bike or even repairing a car.
Note that helping children learn things does not mean doing it all for them while doling out instructions. Whether woodworking or cooking, let your child get hands-on, guide only when needed and help only when asked.
Kids in the US are currently subjected to a culture in which everyone is a winner whether they actually won or not.
While such universal praise might have a positive effect on kids who may not have put forth much of an effort, it actually has a negative effect on kids who did put their best foot forward… and for what?
Why work hard if less effort will win the same praise?
Praise should be used sparingly and judiciously. Over-praising children might convince them that their smallest effort deserves a tide of praise or worse: it might come across as phoney and trite. And you can imagine the effects of using no praise at all...
One use of praise that might backfire is complimenting accomplishments rather than effort and attitude.
Instead of congratulations for the good marks s/he got on an exam (accomplishment), you might instead comment positively on the effort s/he put forth on studying ahead of the exam (effort) or his/her perseverance in studying so hard for a subject s/he doesn’t like (attitude).
There is no checklist or roadmap to follow in helping your child build self-esteem and self-confidence… unfortunately, some might say.
But there is a lot of help and guidance to turn to in times of parental self-doubt; if you know of more ways to help kids build confidence and esteem in themselves, you too can contribute to the discussion.
It might be your advice that works the best!