Constructing Your Child’s Healthy Sense of Self Esteem

Your child’s self esteem is their mental foundation. A self-assured child is confident, secure, happy, well-adjusted and successful. They can solve problems that come their way, and it thrives under a loving parent’s nurturing care.
What are some good ways to built self esteem in your child?
Most importantly, accept your child for who they are, and help them do the same. Teach your child that nobody is perfect, and that everyone makes mistakes. Show them how to learn and grow from their mistakes, and let them know that you also make mistakes. Children with high self esteem are able to take lessons from mistakes and apply them down the road. A child with low self esteem become frustrated and resort to self-depreciating behavior, such as calling themselves ‘stupid’ and vowing to ‘never try that again.’
Help your child discover their abilities and talents, and encourage outlets for them to build on and improve them. Praise a child not only for improvements in abilities and skills, but also for the traits they naturally possess.
Encourage your child to make positive choices. Open an honest dialog with your child and discuss the possibilities with them. Children who learn skills for making positive choices when they are younger are well-prepared for the tougher choices they have to make when they are older.
Ensure that you spend lots of quality time with your child, at least once a week. Whether you are shooting baskets or going out to grab a hamburger, take time to talk and keep in touch. If you find it difficult to squeeze in quality time during a hectic week, take the time to talk about things during the drive to school or while they are helping you put the groceries away.

Connect with Your Child but Don’t Overdo it

We all want to connect and be involved with our child. Children of involved parents generally feel more confident, assured and have a higher level of self esteem. They excel in school and do well in extracurricular activities and with their hobbies.

But is there such a thing as too much involvement? It’s imperative when you’re becoming involved with your school-aged child’s activities and academics that you recognize the line of what being too involved can be.

Remember, you’re becoming involved in your child’s life. It’s important that you don’t intrude too much upon it. Children need their space and privacy and they need to be able to develop their own skills, talents and abilities. In our eagerness to help our child succeed, it’s tempting to want to step in and start doing things for them because you feel they are doing it incorrectly or inadequately. But remember, you had to learn too, and this is their chance to learn on their own.

Be there to encourage and support your child, and offer praise at a job well done. But also remember to step back and allow your child to learn from their own mistakes, and to develop their own way of doing things. We all know from our own life experiences that there’s always more than just one way to do something, and just because your child is doing it differently than you would doesn’t make it wrong. Who knows, it could present a terrific opportunity for you to learn from your child as well.

In addition, try not to become too overbearing or nosy when it comes to their social life. Be available for them should they need to talk and encourage them to share their troubles with you so you can help them sort through a problem. But if they say they don’t want to talk about it or they just need some time to figure things out for themselves, respect that need by letting them know you’re available whenever they need you. This is an important part of growing up and allowing a child to figure his own way through things is an integral part of that process.

“Because” Just Isn’t the Answer

Children are inquisitive by nature. When they are younger, it’s usually because they want to better understand something. When they are older, it’s because they want to better understand why you think something is important and why they should also feel the same way. Regardless of their age, it’s imperative that when setting forth the rules and expectations in your home, your child understands there is no room for questioning the rules you set forth and the consequences of breaking the rules.

Younger children usually do not understand a lengthy explanation of why it’s important that they be home from their friend’s home at a certain time or why they aren’t allowed to play ball in the house. But the one thing they do strive to do most of the time is to make their parents proud and happy. So when a young child asks “Why?” or “Why not?” when they are told they can’t play with something or someone or why they have to obey a rule you’ve set forth, simply explain to them that “because it makes me happy when you follow the house rules and do what I have asked of you.” You should avoid using the term, “Because I said so,” as that only adds to the child’s frustration and confusion.

Older children, adolescents and teenagers alike will probably require more from your explanation. When they question “Why?” or “Why not?” it’s best to directly, honestly and clearly state your reasoning. “I asked you to be home by 10 p.m. because we have to be at the dentist’s office first thing in the morning for your check-up and we can’t be late.” It is also a great opportunity for you to reiterate the consequences of breaking the rule. “If you are not home by 10 p.m., you’ll be grounded from going to your friend’s house for a week.” Be consistent, be firm, and be clear.

Though your child may challenge you by asking your reasoning why a rule has been put in place, it also shows their growth as an individual thinker. So try not to get angry or frustrated when they do so; realize it’s their way of understanding their world around them.

You Can’t Spoil a Child through Love

Though we all worry about spoiling our child, rest assured that you cannot spoil your child with love. Love doesn’t spoil children. Love is imperative to a child’s healthy development, and it’s just not possible to love your child too much. They need caring adults to spend time with them, play with them, teach them, protect them, and enjoy life with them.
It’s a parent’s job to provide love, safety and encouragement. The process of growing up provides children with lots of challenges. Try to listen openly and understand their situation and communicate honestly with them when they have difficulties and letdowns in their life.
Set appropriate limits with your child and then adhere to them. Establishing limits with your child gives them a sense of safety and security. Sometimes parents do not set limits because they don’t want to fight with their children. They don’t want to cause bad feelings. They may beg a child to comply. Or they may make a rule and fail to enforce it. They may nag without ever enforcing the rules. None of these helps children. When your child fails to adhere or comply with the boundaries you’ve set for them, be firm yet kind in your response. This lets them know that you’re serious about the rule but dedicated to helping and loving them. Bear in mind though that each child is different and what works for one child may not work for another. For example, one child may respond well to the direct approach of telling them a specific time to be home, where another child may need a gentle reminder that it’s now time to come home.
Develop a firm but kind manner of making and enforcing your household’s rules and expectations. There’s no need to fear our children, and there should be no need to instill a sense of fear in our children in order to get them to comply.

Consistency is Key to Successful Discipline

Consistency is key to successfully teaching your child right from wrong when disciplining them. It keeps small misdeeds and bad behaviors from later becoming bigger misdeeds and worse behaviors. You have to stand firm and mean it when you say, “Turn off the television now”or “no dessert after dinner because you didn’t touch your dinner.” Consistency teaches your child there are defined consequences for misdeeds and inappropriate or unacceptable actions or behaviors. Inconsistency when disciplining makes you directly responsible for your children’s misbehavior and doesn’t teach them how to be responsible for their actions.
It’s also that each partner is consistent with the discipline. If one parent is too strict and the other is too lenient, the child will key into that and try to manipulate the situation to his or her advantage. Parents must agree on disciplinary action in advance and make a commitment to one another to be consistent in implementing and following through with the consequences. This can be especially difficult if the child’s parents are separated or divorced. Though you may not be together anymore, it’s imperative that you parent on common ground. Openly and honestly discuss these parameters with your former spouse and your child in advance, so that if discipline is needed, the consequences of such misbehavior are well understood in advance. Any disagreements between parents should be discussed out of the child’s earshot.
Consistency is about being strong and standing firm, even when doing so is extremely difficult or exhausting. It can sometimes be hard to come home after a hard day at work only to find a hard night of parenting in front of you. Your child will consistently test the boundaries and ‘push the envelope’ with you to see if there’s any play in those consequences. By standing firm you are showing there is not and that you expect them to do nothing less than take responsibility for their actions.

Training the Fussy Eater

Toddlers can be fussy eaters who refuses to try a new food at least half of the time. Approximately half of all toddlers fit this description, so it is no wonder that food issues are a source of stress for parents.
Establishing healthy eating patterns is important to avoid problems such as obesity and eating disorders later in life. Various strategies can help your child accept a wider range of foods. It may be necessary to offer a food to your child as many as 10 different times before they choose to eat it. The problem is, many parents get frustrated and give up before the fourth or fifth try.
Try to make foods fun. Colorful foods like carrot sticks, raisins, apples, grapes, cheese sticks and crackers can all be fun and healthy choices for your growing toddler. Explain to them that eating good food is important so they’ll grow big and strong, and how it will help them run faster and play longer.

Children learn behaviors from their parents. If you restrict yourself to a narrow range of foods, your child will take notice and mimic your caution. Don’t limit your child’s food variety to only those foods you prefer. It may be that your child’s tastes are different to yours, and perhaps you are simply serving them foods they don’t happen to like. Try to set a good example and try a variety of foods in front of your child. It could motivate them to do the same.

If your child seems healthy and energetic, then they are eating enough. If you are still concerned, keep an eye on how much food they actually eat over the day. Children tend to graze constantly, rather than restrict their eating to three meals per day like adults. You may be surprised how those little handfuls and snacks add up. For further reassurance, check your child’s growth and weight charts, or check with your child’s pediatrician.
Try not to worry, and remember, that unless a child is ill, they will eat. Children are very good at judging their hunger and fullness signals. Try to stay relaxed about mealtime and offer your child a wide variety of foods, and most importantly, remember to set a good example by trying a wide variety of foods yourself. You may discover you and your toddler share a new found favorite food!

Clear Expectations Make Discipline Easier

Sometimes it can be very challenging to communicate anything with your child. Setting clear expectations regarding what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t imperative to successfully teaching your child right from wrong. If the parameters are muddled or the child learns that in one situation the rules hold true yet in another situation the same rule does not, it makes for confusion and frustration on both sides.

Sit down with your child well in advance and line out the expectations and consequences of misbehaving or a misdeed. Make it clear that in no uncertain terms is there any room for negotiation at the time of the infraction, and that should such a behavior occur you intend to be firm in your discipline. Rules regarding your child’s safety, health or well-being should have no room for negotiation when being set or enforced. Other rules can be openly and honestly discussed with your child and an agreed upon action should be forged that both parents and child can agree upon. If necessary, make a contract between parent and child. Lay it all out in black and white, in language your child can clearly understand. For younger children, you might want to develop a good behavior chart within the contract, and for each week that goes by without any infractions being noted, a favorite or special activity might be earned. The connection between good deeds and special time with mom and/or dad might be just the currency they understand.

But all children need to understand that disciplining them is your way of teaching them what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. It may seem as though children fight rules and regulations, but they truly know that such parameters are meant for their well-being, health, safety, and enable them to grow into a mature person capable of making wise decisions.

The Whys of Whining

“Moooooooooooom!”
It’s irritating, it’s frustrating and it gets on your last nerve. Though it’s obnoxious and unacceptable, it’s actually an effective for your child to get your attention. It’s whining. But, like other bad habits, you can nip it in the bud early with a few simple strategies to teach your child there are other appropriate, effective forms of communicating with you.
First, try limiting the situations that trigger it. Avoid extra errands when the kids are hungry. Don’t let them get involved in a frustrating game or project prior to bedtime. Pay attention when your child is talking, as sometimes whining is a reaction when a child feels you aren’t giving them your full attention. Praise them for not whining and talking in a normal and understandable voice that allows you to fully understand what they are saying to you.
When the whining begins, don’t overreact. Keep your response simple, calm and neutral. Ask your child to repeat the request in a normal tone. When giving in seems inevitable, don’t delay. If you must finish the grocery shopping so you can put dinner on the table, for instance, and your child starts whining for a snack, offer something healthy right away.
Once a limit has been set, parents should follow through. It’s imperative that both parents are on board with this limit and fully follow through when the whining rule has been violated.
If you have an older child that’s developing a whining habit, suggest they come up with a solution to their perceived boredom or other voiced problem. If you suggest possible alternatives, it might just prolong the child’s whining.
Sometimes whining can be the result of trauma and trouble in their life. A divorce, serious family illness or problems at school may be at the root. Additional positive attention and quality one-on-one time may be just the medicine your child needs at a time like this. Your pediatrician can also suggest alternatives to curb whining should the positive attention and disciplinary actions be ineffective.

Chores Can Help your Child Learn about Teamwork and a Strong Work Ethic

Chores can help develop a sense of responsibility and self worth in your child. It should be understood by all family members they are expected and necessary to a household running successfully and efficiently. They can help create a sense of unity and family and is a great place for your child to learn about teamwork. Parents should take special care to handle the delegation of chores to children so they don’t become a source of frustration or create arguments.
Allow your child to have an active say in the delegation of chores. Give them choices. We all have household chores that we don’t like to do, but if it’s a chore the child enjoys doing then there’s less likelihood it will create a battle in the end. The child will most likely appreciate having the chance to be heard and having a choice.
It’s imperative that you set parameters early on for the successful completion of a chore. They may not perform up to snuff when they first start performing the chore, but show them where improvement is needed and praise them for a strong effort. Also make sure the child understands there will be repercussions if they only put forth a minimal effort. Ensure the child understands the need for the chore’s effective and efficient completion. Set consequences for substandard completion as a team. Make sure they see that if they don’t perform their chores, it affects the other members of the team. Spouses must work together and be a strong example for their children by completing their own chores each day. And don’t allow a child to undermine your authority by battling with you over a designated chore. Stand your ground and don’t give in, and emphasize the consequence and negative effect an uncompleted chore has on the family.
And keep an open mind when a child wants to discuss their thoughts or express their opinions about chores. Make sure the conversation stays positive and on target.

Actively Listening to your Child

Communicating with our children can be a difficult task at times. We feel like they’re not listening to us; they feel like we’re not listening to them. Good listening and communications skills are essential to successful parenting. Your child’s feelings, views and opinions have worth, and you should make sure you take the time to sit down and listen openly and discuss them honestly.

It seems to be a natural tendency to react rather than to respond. We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences. However, responding means being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from us. By reacting, we send our child the message that their feelings and opinions are invalid. But by responding and asking questions about why the child feels that way, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further, and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from. Responding also gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own. Your child will also appreciate the fact that maybe you do indeed understand how they feel.

It’s crucial in these situations to give your child your full and undivided attention. Put down your newspaper, stop doing dishes, or turn off the television so you can hear the full situation and make eye contact with your child. Keep calm, be inquisitive, and afterwards offer potential solutions to the problem.

Don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated. Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from it, but this can be a detrimental tactic. Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way, and then offer potential solutions to alleviate the bad feeling.

Just as we do, our children have feelings and experience difficult situations. By actively listening and participating with our child as they talk about it, it demonstrates to them that we do care, we want to help and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from. Remember, respond – don’t react.

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