Fun kid activities: Ideas for building self esteem and confidence in children
Building self-esteem and confidence in children is a life-long process, not accomplished by frequently tossing out bits of extravagant and insincere praise.
Ideas For Building Self-Esteem And Confidence In Children
Fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago, self-esteem was not a common topic of discussion among parents. Today you can hardly pick up a magazine targeted toward parental audiences without seeing at least one reference to building confidence and self-esteem in children. Why the recent emphasis on a subject formerly, to a large extent, ignored?
What is self-esteem, anyway? Here is a good definition of both terms. Confidence is knowing one is capable of accomplishing a particular goal, and self-esteem is the knowledge one is valued in his or her society. All of us, not just children, need to know that we matter; we have something to contribute, and we are appreciated for those contributions.
Those who lack confidence in their abilities, or who believe they are worthless, often refuse to make any attempt to succeed in life. This lack can cause numerous problems as the individual matures and is expected, by others, to become a self-supporting, law-abiding citizen.
Unfortunately, many parents today have the mistaken idea confidence and self-esteem are cultivated by overwhelming their children with praise. They respond to every action with so much enthusiasm that no words remain when a really outstanding accomplishment comes along.
Comments such as, “Timmy, you ate all your cereal. What a good boy! Oh, I am so-o-o proud of you!” or, “Ellie, sweetie, you made your bed. That proves you are the most wonderful little girl in the world,” are really not what a child needs to hear every day. Children are not stupid, and will soon learn to recognize blatant insincerity.
Others err by constantly telling their children they are the smartest, prettiest, cleverest, most artistic children ever born. Setting your child up to believe he or she is better than everyone else is not a good way to build confidence and self-esteem. It may, eventually, lead to ridicule from classmates who resent statements like: “Humph! Can’t you read any better than that? I could read better in the first grade.” or, “What, you don’t know the multiplication tables? I can do long division already. My dad says I am the smartest kid in the whole school.” Too much confidence or self-esteem can be just as bad as none at all.
How, then, do we go about building confidence and self-esteem in our children in a proper manner?
First of all, study your child carefully to find whether or not he is actually lacking in either of these areas. Not every child is. And some children lack self-esteem and confidence in only one area such as math skills, sports, or in matters of personal appearance. Determine exactly where your child needs help, before trying to help him.
Take time to listen to your child. Sometimes problems show up in his daily conversations. Other times, you can discover through his avoidance of talking about certain things, that a child needs help in a particular area.
If you find many areas where your child seems to lack confidence and self-esteem, concentrate first on the one that appears to causing him the greatest problem. Trying to improve in too many areas at once can make a child feel even more inadequate than he already does.
For example, if math is his problem, work with him for a few minutes each day. Encourage him to set a reasonable goal for himself, and reward him with a small prize when he achieves his goal. Continue until the child himself is satisfied with his level of achievement. Then move on to the next problem area.
If a child has trouble making friends, help him come up with some special things he could invite a new friend to do with him. Explain that he can show an interest in other people by asking questions about the other person’s hobbies, activities, family, etc.
Some parents make the mistake of demanding improvement in situations that cannot be improved. Don’t insist on the impossible. Instead, focus on strong points your child does have that will help him become more proficient in some other area. This does not mean we allow our children to throw the math book out the window. Not at all. We continue to help and encourage the child to do his best in the difficult areas of his life, while providing him with as many opportunities as possible to succeed in other fields.
Be sure your child understands everyone will not, and cannot, be the best in every single thing he attempts to do. A child who struggles constantly with math or science may be wonderful with words. If so, encourage him to express himself in writing. Help him collect and print his poems or stories in a booklet and distribute them to friends and family members.
Difficulty, and even total failure in one area does not mean a person cannot become a real star somewhere else. Help your child find an area in which he can excel, and support his efforts as much as possible with private lessons, tutoring, or extra time with you or other adults if necessary. No expenditure of time or money should be considered too much, if it results in helping a child in danger of labeling himself as a worthless failure to begin to experience success in his life. His future may very well depend upon it.
Avoid criticism. Nothing causes a child to clam up or become resentful like criticism, no matter how well deserved it seems to be. If you must correct or suggest changes in the way a child performs, wait until the sting of defeat has lessened before offering to help him figure out how he can approach the task in a different way in the future. Giving the child the responsibility of deciding what to do about the problem will do wonders for his self-esteem and confidence. Success that comes as a result of his own decisions will mean much more than if you figure it out for him. Remember, you are there to help him mature, not simply to offer ready-made adult solutions to all his problems.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, we need to realize it is success, not excessive, artificial praise children need in order to become more confident and filled with self-esteem. Your job as a parent is to provide many opportunities as possible for your child to succeed. The more your child experiences success, the more his confidence and self-esteem will grow, and the less the inevitable setbacks and failures of life will bother him.