One of the most important tasks you have is to consistently let your child know she’s capable, loved, and worthy of attention. Her self-esteem is based largely on feedback you give her. If you show you value her, she’ll generally feel good about herself. If you concentrate on her faults and don’t encourage her, she may develop a poor self-image.
Some parents are not supportive. In an effort to improve their child’s behavior or to express frustration and disappointment, they speak harshly. “You’re not a good listener.” “Stop acting like a baby.” “What’s wrong with you?” “You know better!” “You’re not nice.” A child who hears these messages learns that she can’t easily please her parents or live up to their standards.
She gradually starts to believe that her skills, abilities, personality, or appearance aren’t good enough. In such circumstances, it’s hard for a child to develop confidence.
Some parents who speak negatively to their child were themselves criticized as children and may have grown up with a lack of confidence. Even though they once struggled against harsh words and treatment, they repeat the pattern with their own children.
It’s important to think about the messages you give your child. Are you encouraging self-doubt? Are your expectations too high? Do you respect her feelings? Are you too demanding? Do you say things that make her feel shame and guilt? Are you hard to please? Do you dwell on her weaknesses and take her strengths for granted? Do you spend enough time with her?
Give her more verbal rewards. Praise her capabilities (“You can pour your own milk!”) and accomplishments (“You built that tower by yourself.”), and point out her talents (“You learned that song!”) and endearing traits (“You’re so nice to your sister.”). Ignore or minimize her faults. Encourage her when she tries new activities, and offer support when she needs it.
When you treat your child in positive ways, she’ll feel good about herself. This will help her build confidence. As she grows, improved self-esteem will help your child feel happier, more satisfied, and more successful.