Q&A: Toddler Self-Esteem

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From our friends at Parents Ask

Helping to build self esteem is perhaps one of the most important things a parent can do for their child. How to do this… well, that’s another story. Today, Parents Ask contributor Michele Borba, Ed.D., offers these great tips:

Q:  Lately, I’ve noticed that my son gives up on homework or games when it isnt’ going his way. He has also mentioned that he feels like his friends don’t like him (which I don’t think is true). I want to make him feel good about himself. How can I help nuture his self esteem so he can be the best he can be, and feel good too?

A:  Regardless of what state or country I’m in, the question parents at my workshops ask me most frequently is, “What’s the most important thing I can do to help my child be the best he can be?”  And my answer is always the same: “Help your child learn to believe in himself.” That feeling will lay the foundation for his emotional, social, academic, and moral development. And boosting that belief in your child may well be your greatest legacy.

Without feeling “I can do it,” a child is gravely handicapped from succeeding in every arena: at school, at home, with others, at work, on athletic fields, and in life. With little faith in himself, the child will approach experiences with a “Why bother, I can’t do it anyway” attitude, greatly minimizing his chances for happiness and personal fulfillment. The cumulative impact that an “I can’t” attitude has on his self-esteem is tragically predictable: How can he possibly feel good about himself with so few positive experiences to affirm that he is worthwhile and competent?

“I can do it” attitudes don’t develop automatically; our children learn them, and the first place they learn them is from us. Clear-cut evidence shows that parents who expect their children to succeed and communicate the belief, “I know you can,” produce children who do. And nurturing this belief is one of the greatest gifts you can give you child, because it is the foundation for healthy self-esteem and successful living.

Sometimes, though, parents and teachers unintentionally send messages that diminish children’s self beliefs. One of the deadliest habits that chip away at children’s self-confidence is any form of stereotyping.

Parents who expect their children to succeed and communicate the belief, “I know you can,” produce children who do.

Nicknames like Shorty, Clumsy, Crybaby, Slowpoke, Klutz, or Nerd can become daily reminders of incompetence. They can also become self-fulfilling prophecies. Regardless whether the labels are true or not, when children hear them they begin to believe them. And the label very often sticks and becomes difficult to erase.

Click here for five ideas you can do to help prevent your child from forming deadly, negative self-images.

“How can I help nurture my son’s self esteem so he can be the best he can be, and feel good too?”

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