Every parent wants to raise a well-rounded child with all the important qualities that will prepare them for the “grown-up” world. One of the most important traits to nurture during your child’s upbringing is self-esteem. Having good self-esteem will help your child face problems, overcome difficulties, explore new interests and take healthy risks.
Solid foundations for good self-esteem in children are a loving and caring family, a strong feeling of belonging, a safe environment for them to fail and learn from their mistakes, while knowing they are loved no matter what.
Besides some common practices for boosting your kid’s self-esteem such as praising, encouraging them to pursue their interests, letting them make mistakes, there are some activities that will help them feel valued and safe, thus helping them build healthy self-esteem. We’ve listed here the most effective activities, both fun and valuable, for you and your kid.
1. Catch the compliment game
This is such a great and easy activity for you and your kid – and anybody else that comes along. It’s an easy and fulfilling game, leaving everybody with big smiles on their faces afterward. It’s basically playing catch with a twist; all you need is a ball and a couple of nice words.
The person tossing the ball gives a compliment to the person catching it, who then catches “the compliment”, and passes it on to another person, also complimenting them along the way. Although, there’s one catch with this game – don’t overpraise or tell lies to your kid. For example, if your kid is not that athletic – don’t tell them they’re fantastic at sports. Kids can tell lies from truth, which can make your future praises invaluable to them. Instead, suppose your kid is great at drawing, tell them that, or that they are a really good friend.
2. Ridiculing the fear
Any Harry Potter fans here?
You may link this activity to a spell, “Riddikulus”, and what a great spell that is. To anybody not familiar with the reference: it’s a spell that turns something you’re afraid of into something ridiculous, eg. dressing an old, angry dog in a diaper and a onesie. Well, this activity is something similar.
As your kid is growing up, he will face fears more serious than the dark or the Boogieman – such as being afraid to read in front of the whole class or going to a birthday party without their best friend. A great way to encourage them to confront those fears is to make a list with them, jotting down what are they afraid of and why.
Then, think of the scenarios that could happen if they do it. What is the worst case scenario? Is it really that bad? If it is, what can they do to make a better outcome, or even a funny outcome? This will help your child get a sense that their fears are not that fatal, giving them the confidence to overcome fears rather than run away from them.
3. Writing a letter to my friend – me
So, your kid faced his fear (congrats!), but it didn’t go so well, and now he’s down with the funk. You can see him blaming himself for not practising more, or for not being more responsible.
There’s one great thing that goes along with good self-esteem, and that’s self-compassion. Everyone is their own greatest critic, and that involves our little ones too. One way to help them deal with failure is telling them to write a letter to themselves. You’re probably thinking that’s not going to help, they’ll just criticize themselves on paper. But no, tell them to write a letter to themselves as they would write to their friend who failed at something.
Their mindset will change right away. No one wants to hurt their friends, so why should they be so harsh on themselves? This activity will teach them that failing is okay and it’s an inevitable part of life, while knowing you’re there to support them and comfort them no matter what.
4. Feel-good scrapbook
Some days are just bad. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t feel good about yourself. It’s the same for our kids. After a bad day at school or at the piano lesson, they need to pick-you-up. Going through a scrapbook containing their successes, accomplishments, and overcame fears may be just the thing they need to look at when they are feeling down.
You can start filling it out with them as early as they wish or feel the need for it. A nice touch is filling it with praises from their friends and family, reminding them they are loved and cared for, which is something everybody needs on a bad day.
5. Giving them chores
Most parents put off giving chores to children because they don’t want to burden them. On the contrary, by including them in housework, children feel like they are contributing to the household in their own valuable way.
Some simple tasks, like cleaning the table after dinner, watering the plants or feeding the pet, will be easy for them to accomplish while teaching them responsibility. Noticing and saying how the table is clean or the plants are greener because of them will make them feel valued and proud of themselves.
As they grow older and more confident in fulfilling tasks around the house, don’t be afraid to give them more responsibilities, including some more complicated ones. Giving them the freedom to make their own meals is a great practice of trial and error, and a great way for them to learn from their own mistakes – maybe they shouldn’t have put so much peanut butter and jelly on toast because they messed their t-shirt, but now they know better for the next time.
There are many activities that will help build up your kid’s self-esteem, but the best and most successful way to do it is to listen to their needs and feelings. Making them feel safe and showing them your unconditional love will make it easier for them to follow their own path, even if it is filled with failure and mistakes because they know they have someone to turn to at all times.
And, do keep in mind that happy, fulfilled and confident parents are the best parents for their kids. So, it might not be bad for you to practice some of the above-listed activities yourself.