In our home, there is no such thing as “I can’t.’’ It is important that children know that they can do anything if they just try. So, when a child says “I can’t do something” you need to find out if they don’t want to, don’t know how to, or are afraid to.
Does not want to
If a child does not want to do something, then try again later, or after a day or two. Perhaps they are tired or just not in the mood. Or maybe they just need a little encouragement or reassurance that they can do it. How many times have you felt like you can’t do something and after a short break you returned and tackled it with a more positive attitude?
Does not know how to
If a child does not know how to do something then spend some time teaching them how to. We all feel overwhelmed when faced with a challenging task or when doing something for the first time.
Is afraid to
If a child is afraid to do something, try and help them rationalise their fears and at least give it a try. Need I remind you how you felt before your first interview? You probably knew that you were qualified and more than capable for the job, but that didn’t stop you from feeling nervous or scared.
Why do children doubt themselves and where do these doubts come from?
Educational psychologist, Claire Maher, says, “Some children are born with anxious or tentative temperaments. Hence, the first 1000 days of a child’s life are crucial in developing their little personalities and the way they feel about themselves.”
We must remember that children develop their self-esteem (a sense of feeling good about themselves) through the eyes of others and through their experiences. When they feel loved and accepted by those around them, they feel good about themselves. When they feel good about themselves, they become more confident in their abilities.
This is why parents are integral parts of the positive and negative experiences children have, says Maher.
Applying logic to children’s behaviour
Talking about experiences shaping one’s self-esteem, the same logic that applies to adults also applies to kids. Just think about it. Would you perform better in a work environment where you are acknowledged, valued, praised and encouraged? Or would you be better off if you are criticised, put down in front of your co-workers and are compared to other employees?
“The first 1000 days of a child’s life are crucial in developing their little personalities and the way they feel about themselves”.
What if your husband continuously compared you to his best friend’s wife? Would you be eager to make more effort? Or would it leave you feeling unappreciated and disrespected? Perhaps you will eventually start feeling as if you’re “not good enough”, which could lead to low self-esteem.
So, the next time you start complaining to someone about your child in front of them or compare them to their siblings, stop! You are playing a dangerous game that could result in bigger problems later on.
While in theory it is easy to say that parents play a big part in developing self-esteem and confidence, in practice what can you actually do about it?
17 ways to build confidence and self-esteem in children
- Encourage children to participate in activities that will challenge and boost them.
- Encourage your child to make friends.
- Read your child books and stories where characters overcome adversity and manage their stress or difficulties in a positive way.
- Always use constructive criticism as opposed to putting your child down.
- Do not compare your children to each other. No two apples are the same.
- Do not complain about your children to other people when they are around.
- Do not put unnecessary pressure on your child to do well. Know your child’s capabilities and do not push them beyond that.
- Children’s lives these days are so busy they are often burnt out. If your child’s schedule is too busy, try and prioritise and cut down where you can. Rather let them do one or two things but do it well.
- Identify your child’s talents and help them develop them to boost their confidence levels.
- Do not allow your children to mock and put each other down. Also, never allow your children to do it to other children.
- Let your children know that they can come to you if something is bothering them.
- Identify signs that your child is being bullied (within and outside the home).
- Get actively involved in role playing with your kids. Place them in “what if” scenarios and let them figure out solutions to help them become confident in their decision-making.
- Acknowledge their efforts. Instead of always pointing out mistakes they make, try pointing out the good they do.
- Give them simple household responsibilities.
- Let your child know that it is okay to feel unsure and afraid at times.
- Reward your kids instead of punishing them.
“If you have tried all of the above but your child still suffers significantly with self-esteem difficulties it may be helpful to employ the assistance of a professional,” says Maher. While we often hear that parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, sometimes we don’t actually need it. All we need is some common sense.