Thomas D. Yarnell, Ph. D.
Clinical Psychologist

Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself. It includes such things as your  self-confidence, self-respect, pride in yourself, your independence and your self-reliance. All the ways you feel about yourself and your abilities are wrapped up in the term "self-esteem".
In general, the more positive your self-esteem, the more successful you will be at dealing with life. The same holds for your children. The more positive their self-esteem, the more confident and proud they will be. They will try harder, be happier and have greater self-respect. They will make friends easier and will be more giving. Children with positive self-esteem are more secure and loving than children with negative self-esteem.
Negative self-esteem is related to low self-confidence, insecurity, underachievement, anxiety, depression, acting-out behavior, sleep problems and being a loner.
As a parent or a teacher, you have a great influence over the self-esteem of your child. For the first 4 or 5 years, parents are the most important contributor. When children start school, teachers and friends become important. Once they reach adolescents, peer groups begin playing a greater role in steering your child's self-esteem. The more positive their self-esteem was before adolescents, the easier it will be for them to resist negative peer group pressures.
Here are some things you can do to build your child's self-esteem:
1.     In general, the more positive the parents self-esteem, the more positive the child's will be. Be a good role model. Start by building your own self-esteem. (See my article: Boost Your Self-Esteem)
2.     Honest praise is the quickest way to build a person's self-esteem. Find someway to praise your child every day. Make sure the praise is realistic and honest. When possible, praise yor child for trying to do something even if he/she was not successful. If need be, give your child a task you know can be completed just so you can give the praise. As your child's self-esteem grows more positive, this process will become easier and more natural.
3.     Focus on the positive aspects of your child's behavior. Even if you don't like some of the behavior, find someting positive to focus on.
4.     Put a picture of your child with family members next to your child's bed. This is a subtle reminder to your child that he/she has family support and they are not alone in the world. Yes, many children really do feel that way.
5.     Communicate with your child. That means listening to how your child feels without making judgments about those feelings. Try to find out why they feel the way they do. Once you know why, you may be able to offer a different interpretation so the child's feelings can change. Regardless, do not judge the feelings. They are just there. How your child reacts to these feelings are important because behavior has consequences. If you listen and understand, you are better able to suggest behaviors that will have positive consequences rather than negative ones.
6.     Keep criticism to a minimum. Criticism does not produce positive behavior. Praise does.
7.     Show your child there is a way they can control their feelings. When your child is feeling bad, play this game with her/him. Close eyes and remember something from the past that was fun and imagine or visualize that it was still going on. After 2 or 3 minutes, your child will begin to feel better. Explain to your child that this is something they can do anytime they feel bad because they are in control of how they feel.
8.     Teach your child to set goals, follow through and complete projects. The projects can be small and short in the beginning and then get more involved. This builds self-confidence and self-esteem and shows children they have some control in their life. Make sure the project is age appropriate and not too complicated for your child's level of development. Remember, the purpose is to allow your child to experience success. Give praise often during the project as well as on completion. Each positive event in your child's life is building a more positive self-esteem.
Copyright 2003 - 2008 Thomas D. Yarnell, Ph. D. All rights reserved
Dr. Yarnell has produced two CDs  to help your child do better in school, follow rules better, get along better with others, be less afraid and more confident and behave better in all situations. They are :

* Affirmations For Children
* Visualizations For Children

Click here to check Dr. Yarnell's self improvement and personal development CDs for children, adolescents and adults. 
  Click here for Dr. Yarnell's recommended "Books of the Month".
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