Instilling confidence in a child can be difficult at times. Their brains work in such a way that we often forget that the words we choose to say to them, and the actions we perform in front of them, will leave a lasting mark, be it good or bad.
Before letting loose a common remark that you’d say to a friend, think about the true implications of what you’re saying or doing. Try to think about how you’re interacting with your child, and whether it is helping them grow their self-esteem or discouraging them.
Here are three ways you will unknowingly lower your child’s self-esteem:
Telling them “it’s easy” – This one is probably pretty obvious when viewed at face-value. You wouldn’t feel very good about yourself if someone told you that the task you were struggling to complete was easy. Ok, if it’s easy, then that must mean that I am somehow incompetent.
This is exactly what your child thinks when you try to encourage them by letting them know how easy something is. Instead, practice telling them that the tasks they struggle with are difficult or hard. That way, when they finally achieve their task, they feel a sense of accomplishment and work ethic.
Doing everything for them – One of the biggest things I wish my mom did for me as a kid is let me struggle and fail more often. When children are faced with tasks and are then able to figure them out and solve them on their own, they feel a great sense of accomplishment. Letting them learn how to fail, re-assess, and then succeed all by themselves is great for their self-esteem.
Doing things for them takes away this opportunity for growth. If the task at hand truly is too difficult, try reducing it into several, smaller tasks that they might be able to handle better.
Losing your cool when they make mistakes – Just like Lewis’ Aunt Billie says in the Disney film Meet the Robinsons, “From failure we learn, from success not so much.” Having a natural inclination to protect your children from all of the mistakes they are inevitably going to make throughout their lifetime is a surefire way to handicap them for life.
Your child is going to make mistakes in life, a lot of them, just like you did when you were young, and like you continue to do as an adult. Never freak out when your kids make mistakes, recognize that they are opportunities to grow, and teach them how to be responsible, accountable, and honest (with themselves and those around them).