When Your Child Suffers from Low Self-Esteem

By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting

As parents, we naturally love our child with all our heart, and it tears us apart if our child doesn't love himself. Many people assume that there's little they can do to change this situation, when actually, parents can have a tremendous affect on how a child sees himself. Here are some practical ideas:

Question: I'm beginning to suspect that my child's negative behavior is due to a lack of self confidence and low self esteem. How do I help him feel good about himself?

Think about it: It's routine to teach kids how to read, write and even how to paint or how to run the dishwasher. It's not customary to teach kids how to nurture their own self-esteem, though it's the most important thing they can learn.

Love is the wind beneath their wings: The foundation for healthy self-esteem is the feeling of unconditional love and approval a child feels from his parents. As children navigate the rocky road to adulthood, they need large, obvious doses of this kind of love. Make sure you're showing your child this kind of love on a daily basis. Say it with your words, your actions, and your heart.

Skills boost esteem: Help your child discover his talents and the things he's good at. Allow him to try various sports, hobbies and activities. Encourage him to apply himself to those things he enjoys and seems skilled at. Accomplishment builds self-confidence. Self-confidence builds self-esteem.

Being helpful equals being confident: Assign your child household chores. Chores help a child feel like a capable, responsible member of the family. Doing chores promotes a feeling of being trusted, skilled and important.

Life's lessons: Don't hover, protect and rescue your child. Let him learn through his trials, his struggles, and his mistakes. A child's greatest sense of accomplishment comes through personal effort, and personal success.

Praise, praise, praise: Compliment your child daily using sincere and specific praise. A child creates an image of himself largely through input from others, especially his parents. When you notice something worth praising, use descriptive statements to compliment your child such as, "You sure stuck with that project until it was complete. That takes persistence and stamina!"

Choose your words carefully: You may have heard your parents say, "What is the matter with you?" or "Can't you ever remember?" and now you repeat it to your child without much thought to the punch behind the words. But think about what your words are saying, and find alternatives that more clearly describe your intended meaning.

Teach positive thinking: Help your child develop a more positive way of looking at life. Gently correct his pessimistic statements. When he says, "I can't do it." Respond, "Take your time and try again, I have confidence in you." If he mutters, "I'm so clumsy. I'll never learn to roller blade." Say, "It's tough to learn something new. Remember how much you fell when you first put on skis? Now you're a better skier than I am!"

Also see:
Teaching positive thinking
In a material world, children must learn values at home
What are your words saying?
Making Time for Mommy

Elizabeth Pantley is the author of several books, including Kid Cooperation (with an introduction by William Sears, MD) and Perfect Parenting.

(Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999)