Bella Stitt, LMFT
Being a parent these days is no easy task. With the abundance of negative outside forces, raising a child with a healthy self-esteem and the self-reliance that will be crucial later in life is more difficult than ever. Fortunately, there are five components you can put into place right now to help your children develop into happy, confident adults.
Practice Firm Yet Fair Discipline
As angry as you find yourself when your children misbehave, it’s important to speak in a low, firm voice, while focusing on their behavior being bad, not the children themselves. Additionally, before disciplining your children, make sure they understand why they’re being punished, are aware of your expectations, and know how they should be behaving instead. For example, instead of demanding that they “stop whining,” say, “please speak clearly so that I can understand what you are trying to say.”
Develop Their Self-Esteem
If you should notice your child having thoughts or expectations about themselves or others that are incorrect or unrealistic, correct their way of thinking as soon as possible in order to avoid these inaccurate perceptions from becoming a reality for your child. Try to also allow for opportunities where your children can experiment and find out what they enjoy, like and are good at…without the constant pressure of competing to win. Supporting them in activities and talents that are in line with their strengths can facilitate the development of their self-esteem and personality, and you may also get them thinking about who they want to be when they grow up.
Set a Good Example
Be sure to work on your own self-esteem, since being excessively harsh on yourself can result in your child mirroring your way of thinking. Furthermore, react to problems in an optimistic, solution-focused way, which teaches children that problems are short-term and can be dealt with. If you do find yourself acting in ways that aren’t ideal or saying things in anger, own your mistake and ask for forgiveness. Admitting mistakes and being accountable will show your children that it is okay not to be perfect and that taking responsibility for your actions is essential.
Motivate Them with Praise
Praise your children for their willingness, intention and effort, not just for a job well done. Praise children when you see them making good choices as well. It’s important to reward good behaviors by recognizing specific things that you liked. For example, you might tell them, “I’m proud of you for making a good choice, and deciding to do your homework before asking me if you can play with your friends.”
Help Your Children Manage Stress
Help your child develop healthy ways of coping with stress by being sympathetic and understanding. When you observe your child struggling, identify the feelings they may be experiencing with a sympathetic statement such as, “It’s upsetting and frustrating to have your friends cancel on plans that were made, especially since you were really looking forward to them.” This allows your child to feel supported by you, helps alleviate negative feelings and frustrations, and allows them to become more aware of (and therefore better able to communicate) their feelings.
Being effective parents requires love, attention, and complete dedication. Expressing your feelings to your children, especially in regards to how much you care about and love them, can not only support healthy development of your child but also help you to form a lasting bond with your children.
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