As parents, our goal is to raise confident, capable and intelligent children who will go on to be productive members of society. That can be a challenge in a world where everyone lives on social media, where users are constantly judging each other or measuring themselves against the people they follow.
While challenging, it’s not impossible to build self-esteem in our youth. It has to start at an early age, and we have to keep working at it.
Confidence starts with us – as parents – allowing our children to make decisions and mistakes. Yes, we should provide guidance, but if we do everything for them, they will learn to distrust their instincts and judgement. On the other end of the spectrum, if we provide no guidance whatsoever, our children will grow up without a sense of responsibility or dignity.
Far too often, we dismiss our young children’s feelings, but if we want them to be confident, we have to recognize that they have a right to have feelings. And we should respect those feelings.
Does that mean children shouldn’t be disciplined? No. Inappropriate behavior should be corrected, but we should also reward good behavior.
We should be making an effort to get to know our children; to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Focus on those strengths, and allow your child to engage in activities that only improve on those strengths. Forcing kids and teens to engage in activities that they do not excel in or enjoy may only lower their self-esteem.
When our children reach their teenage years, we can help them by teaching them how to act confident in different situations. Teaching the importance of making eye contact, smiling and carrying on conversations will be helpful in the real world. These seem like common-sense things to teach teens, but many of us aren’t doing it. And with so many people communicating via text messages and emails, many children simply don’t know how to communicate face-to-face or hold a conversation.
While it may seem superficial, children and teens should be taught the importance of self-care, hygiene and caring about their appearance. Yes, appearances matter in the workplace and real world as an adult. Something as simple as taking your teen to the dermatologist to help with his or her acne can boost confidence levels dramatically.
Our children need to understand that their thoughts and feelings matter. They also need the freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes. Otherwise, they will find it hard to be confident in their abilities if we’re constantly telling them what’s right and wrong.
Ask for your teen’s opinion and insight on things. Listen without judgement. Praise them for their efforts, and offer support when times are tough.
Our children did not ask to be brought into this world. It’s our job to guide them and teach them how to trust in their abilities and confidently move through life. It can be a challenge and requires an ongoing effort, but the reward of a happy, fulfilled and confident adult child is well worth the effort.