I truly thought nurturing self-esteem in children was one of the hardest tasks of parenthood.  It doesn’t take long to realize that each child that enters your family dynamic has a very different personality.  Because of this, some of your parenting tactics will differ a bit if you want your child to grow up with self confidence.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting that you have to have a “smorgasbord” of family rules.  In fact, I feel just the opposite.  Most of your parenting skills should be the same to help in creating strong family bonds between your children.  Please understand, I am not a child psychologist or any form of specialist.  I am just a now “Mimi” that has experienced motherhood first hand.   Through victories and failures you learn quite a bit.

Our immediate family has a very strong connection.  Does this mean everything was done perfectly???  Hell no!  Wow, raising kids is the toughest, yet most rewarding, thing you will ever do (in my opinion).   While you are in the thick of it, you just keep pushing through, hoping you are making the “right” choices.   What I discovered is that it is important that your kids learn that some mistakes are made along the way….it is through failure that we find the most success!

Failure is OK!

We all want our kids to be the smartest, the best, the happiest, the kindest…….and on and on.  It is so important that they understand that they will fail at times and that is ok!  It is the lesson they learn from that failure that is so valuable.  Take this time to help them evaluate where things went wrong and discuss what they could have done differently to make it better.  However, don’t solve the problem for them.  Just be there to guide when needed.

It is also important for us, as parents, to understand it is ok for them to fail.  We have to be able to take a step back and realize they aren’t always going to be the “winner.”  Once we understand that, we are a huge help in building their self confidence.  This was hard for me as I am a competitive person by nature.  I quickly realized that my children were made differently from me and I needed to respect and nurture each of their personality traits.

Let them try numerous things.  You never know what hidden talent may arise from sampling different extra-curricular activities.  Likewise, you, as parents should try new things so that children can see their role models handing new situations as well.  My daughter has recently started boxing and as you can see it has had a positive effect on her children.

Mental Strength

This is many times referred to as “grit.”  While my husband and I were athletes, we quickly realized with our children (Karleigh in particular) that you don’t have to be an athlete to have grit.  That child was interested in so many other things in life, but we knew that whatever she set her mind on to do she would eventually accomplish it…or have a ton of fun trying!  She taught us that being good at kindness, community projects and mastering the violin were just as good of a lesson at “grit” as being a good athlete.  We just had to learn to let her follow her dreams….not ours!

I will never forget the first school orchestra concert we went to.  Our whole family went (because it is so very important for siblings to support each other).  Lauren and Eli were athletes like us so this was a very different experience for all of us.  The boredom we had to battle from them was painful.  However, when they watched their sister step on the stage and take her seat, we were all mesmerized.   Moments like these are amazing for nurturing self-esteem in children…for Karleigh as well as Lauren and Eli.  They quickly learned that the interests of each family member is important.

Boundaries ~

I was from the era that you had to remain at the dinner table until your meal was finished.  It was so agonizing!  Thank goodness for the dogs in my family that loved to sit under the table 😉.  This was a boundary that was set by my parents and we all knew it wasn’t negotiable.

I believe a good boundary set for today is no technology at the dinner table….for children AND parents.  Today’s dinner table may look a little different…maybe one parent is working late, maybe there is only one parent, maybe it is grandparents raising the kids.  However that table looks, still make it a family dinner and still set boundaries.  This is such a great time to talk, REALLY TALK about the kids’ day.  This, too, boosts self-confidence as it makes the child feel loved and cared about.

When our children were young, my husband worked late hours.  We didn’t switch to separate dinners, we moved our family dinners to later so that we could be together as much as possible.  For a long time, we also had “Sunday” dinners.  I tried to make this more of a special meal with themed dinners or special dinner settings as much as possible.  The kids got involved with this and enjoyed it as well.  As the kids got older, I let this tradition slide a bit….I wish I would have never let that happen.  However, now that we are all adults, we try to get together for “Sunday” dinners as much as possible now which is very special to us.

Conversation Starters ~

  1. What was the favorite part of your day?
  2. How were you kind/helpful to someone today?
  3. Who did you play with today?  What did you play?
  4. If you were the teacher, what rules would you have for the class?
  5. What is your favorite room in our house?  Why?
  6. If you could only keep one toy, what would it be?
  7. What do you like best about our family?
  8. What was the most challenging part of your day?
  9. Were there any instructions you had a hard time following today?

Responsibilities ~

Otherwise known as chores, responsibilities for each child is so important.  It may create extra work for you following up on spills and such, but the pride a child feels when you trust in their abilities goes a long way.  My daughter, Lauren, is amazing at this.  At very young ages, her children have been responsible for feeding the animals, cleaning their rooms, setting their clothes out, etc.  It isn’t always done perfectly, but when Max shows up to Mimi and Pappy’s in a thick velvet sport coat with shorts in the middle of summer….priceless!

Speaking of dressing, if the kids want to wear a Superman (or E.T.) costume to the grocery store…let them.  Maybe your daughter wants to go to dinner dressed as Elsa.  Who is it hurting?  In fact, it is only building their self confidence.  Check out the many benefits of role playing in my earier article Bring Back E.T. ~ Imagination and Role Playing.  Many times, the smallest things can make the biggest impact.  Besides, most people get a kick out of seeing children dressed in costumes…it may just make someone’s day!

Play Outside ~

Not only is the physical exercise so important, but so many life lessons are learned while kids are playing outside.  They have to learn to be creative and make decisions on their own, which of course, builds self confidence.  Even if you take the kids to the playground, don’t be that “helicopter” parent that stands right by them.  Sit/stand in watching distance but let them learn how to make friends and stand up for themselves when someone isn’t so nice.

It’s so hard to watch if someone isn’t being the kindest to our children, but how else are they going to learn to cope.  We are not always going to be there to fight every battle.  Now am I suggesting you let some child physically abuse your child…NO!  However, most of the time when there are struggles between children doesn’t mean it’s going to turn into some huge war!  Children will learn to stand up for each other and for themselves while playing with others.

Don’t Dismiss Their Emotions ~

When you child has had a bad day or a bad experience, DO NOT just say, “It will be ok!”  Take this time to REALLY TALK with your child and ask questions…

  • Why do you feel that way?
  • What could have been done to make it better?
  • Can you tell me more about it?
  • I’m so sorry this happened, how can I help?
  • What are you thinking about?

GREAT Children’s Book Series ~

Steve Herman is a best selling children’s books author.  The My Dragon Books Series has some great books to help children with learning from mistakes, dealing with bullies, handling sibling rivalry, loving yourself and much more.  Here is a link to his book Help Your Dragon Learn From Mistakes.

There is even a cute plush Diggory Doo Dragon Plush that kids can play along with as you read through each book.  How fun is that?

Nurturing self-esteem in children is so very important.  It helps a child thrive throughout life, teaches them coping skills and how to handle adversity.  Do everything you can to make this happen!

Much love ~

Mimi