How to Build Your Child's Self-Esteem and Confidence
While it is important to teach a child to be cautious of certain things (ie the busy road, the steep stairs etc) parents should be careful not to overprotect their child so much that he loses his natural instinct to explore and the courage to try new things.
We have all watched children in the playground as they line up to climb the steps of the slide; one by one they slide down, squealing with delight as they do so. But in nearly every line-up there is the nervous child who climbs the steps extra carefully and very slowly, repeatedly looking back for a nod of reassurance from an all-too-often anxious parent.
This type of parent often seems to take great pride in announcing their child's fear to the world. 'He's such a sensitive little boy, so careful and cautious.' In reality it is often the parent who is over cautious, worried, anxious and fearful that their child should come to harm. A child who is constantly reminded to be careful when he attempts the everyday challenges all children face, will quickly lose the confidence and the courage to try different things and learn new skills.
Parents who constantly correct everything their child says or does can also damage their child's self-esteem. The desire for their child to achieve success in everything he attempts to do leads some parents to re-arrange the farmyard properly, finish off the edges of the colouring correctly, and more often than not frequently answer or finish a sentence for the child when he is asked a question. Their drive for perfection very quickly cripples his natural ability to try things for himself. He then becomes too anxious to try anything for fear of getting it wrong - frightened of disapproval.
The following guidelines give suggestions to help build your child's self-esteem and confidence.
- The way a parent helps their child approach the many challenges he faces has a great influence on how successful he will be in mastering the challenge. All too often I hear parents express concern that their child is bound to be like them and be frightened of heights, have no sense of balance, dislike dogs etc. A child is not a carbon copy of his parents, therefore it is very important that you do not assume that your child's strengths and weaknesses will be the same as your own.
- Between two and three years of age a child is becoming very aware of being a separate person and is beginning to form views and opinions of his own. It is very important that you allow your child time to think and answer for himself when asked a question.
- During the third year all children are capable of self-feeding, undressing and, apart from buttons and zips, dressing themselves. Continuing to do these things for your child because it is quicker will do little to help his growing independence. Allow extra time at mealtimes and in the morning and evening so you have the patience to guide him and encourage him to do these things for himself.
- When teaching new skills it is important that you choose a time when your child is not overtired or hungry. Then, before doing it together, show him several times how it is done. Once he attempts it by himself it is important to praise him for his efforts even if he doesn't get it quite right.
- Second children appear to learn many skills much quicker, probably because they copy their elder brother or sister. An only child will benefit greatly from being given the opportunity to mix with other children at playgroups or if parents arrange play dates at home.
- It is important not to undermine your child's attempts at something new by comparing him with others. The length of time a child takes to learn a new skill varies for each child and the most important thing is that your child enjoys learning the new skill, not how long he takes to learn it. If you are concerned about your child's development it is better to talk to your health visitor than to worry unnecessarily.
- Learning a new skill requires a lot of concentration from a child, which can sometimes lead to frustration and anger. If, despite being shown several times, your child is still struggling with a new task, a difficult jigsaw or game, try to resist interfering or doing it for him. It is much better to defuse the situation by suggesting a rest period with a drink and a biscuit. Once he has calmed down and is relaxed he will be much more likely to listen to your advice on how to tackle the task.
During the third year most parents work hard to help build their child's self-esteem and to encourage him to become more confident. However, sometimes a child's increasing independence can cause him to become overconfident which can lead to disobedience. I think it is essential that parents strike a happy balance between encouraging their child's new-found confidence and teaching them that there are certain rules to which we must all adhere.
Alan Murray is a writer for a babies names site. He is the father of two boys and lives in Scotland in the UK. The site has more than just baby names however with information on pregnancy, baby health and symptoms of chickenpox.