12 Strategies to enhance your child’s self-esteem
Are you worried about your child or teen’s self-esteem? Do you hear your child saying things like: “I am not good enough,” “I can’t do it,” “I’m dumb,” or “I suck at everything”?
It can be scary, and sometimes even frustrating to hear your child talking about herself like this. As a parent, I want my daughter to feel she can do anything she sets her mind to. Don’t we all?
Lots of research has been done on this topic, and most mental health specialists agree that negative self-talk can impact a child’s self-esteem.
Here are 12 Strategies to help your child enhance his or her self-esteem:
- Be mindful of yourself.
Yes, I start by looking ourselves as parents. It is not news that we, as parents, are our children’s role model. So, how’s your self-esteem these days? Remember, your child will copy your behavior more than what you tell them to do. Take special note of how to talk about yourself.
- Model positive self-talk.
Try using positive self-talk at home in little tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping groceries, exercising, etc. You might feel awkward telling yourself how “awesome” you are at what you are doing, but something small like: “I am glad I got this done, I feel so accomplished” would do. Your child will be witnessing firsthand the power of a positive voice.
- Pay attention to how you describe your child
Even without noticing we tend to use certain words to describe our children. Be aware of these words because children define themselves by the way their parents and other important figures in their lives, such as teachers, grandparents, and other caregivers say. If you describe one of your children as shy, and the other one as outgoing, there is a high probability that both of them will incorporate these words and exacerbate their behaviors—the one that is shy will become “shy-er” and the outgoing one, more so!
- Avoid jumping to fix it.
It’s absolutely natural to want to correct your child when he is using negative words to describe himself. It can be heart-breaking. In the fight against the pessimistic voice, instead of correcting observe your child and attempt to understand what’s happening that is causing the negative self-talk.
- Be curious.
Explore with your child what the issue is. For example, if your child says “I can’t get it” when doing homework, be kind and curious to explore if it is one specific homework or if is the entire subject that is bringing the defeated feeling. In the process, you can guide him to think about times when he was able to overcome a similar situations. This will help improve confidence and increase motivation.
- Be empathetic.
Sometimes doing less is actually doing more. Listen carefully to understand your child’s pessimistic point of view. Use empathy to let your child know you understand what he is saying at that moment. Some examples are phrases such as: “It looks as you are struggling right now to finish your math homework” or “It sounds as you are frustrated now.” Younger children usually do not have the words to describe their feelings, and as parents we can help them to find the voice to express them.
- Help your child notice when he/she is engaging in negative self-talk.
Have a conversation with your child about self-esteem and negative self-talk. Let him know that you will be helping him improve. One way to do this is to come up with a “code word” to call out when the negative self-talk is happening. I once had a client that came up with the name ‘Mr. Know It All’ and when he engaged in negative self-talk, mom would say: “It looks like Mr. Know It All” came out today.” This allowed the family to lighten up the mood as well as increase awareness of when the behavior was happening.
- Confront the negative voice.
I have two suggestions that can be fun and liberating:
- Turn the negative self-talk into a tune your child is familiar with, such as happy birthday. Can you imagine singing “I can’t do this” as if you were singing happy birthday? You and your child will laugh together with this one.
- Similar to singing is to pick a cartoon voice that your child loves and say aloud the negative self-statement using this voice.
- Develop a family “I can” mantra to turn negatives into positives.
For example, each time a family member uses a negative statement about him or herself, any family member can redirect the person to a more positive one. A good way to remind the family about the “I can” mantra is by having visual reminders in different places of the house, such as the bedroom, bathroom mirrors, closets. Adding images or people who your child finds inspirational works well too.
- Send positive self-statement reminders.
Whenever your child accomplishes a goal, remind him to celebrate. For instance, let’s say your child is struggling in math and he gets a B (he usually gets C’s and D’s), celebrate by having his favorite dessert, or meal, or activity together.
- Practice relaxation techniques with your child
Teach your child about the importance of breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing can be taught by lying your child on a mat, a bed or the floor, and putting a paper cup on his stomach. Each time the mountain goes up and down in his stomach, he is using breathing to manage his feelings.
To your children’s success!
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships, in her private practice, located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her bachelor and master degrees in marriage and family therapy and in business administration. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a certified addictions professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population, and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which is consisted of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/