5 Simple Ways to Build Your Kids’ Self-Esteem

What do I want for my kids, if I had to boil it down to just one thing? I’d say I want them to love themselves. To have a good, healthy self-esteem. We all want our kids to have confidence and feel good about themselves. But between all the “put that down!” and “Mommy told you not to do that!” and “STOP WHINING!” sometimes we just aren’t the best at nurturing that sense of self-love.

I mean, it seems simple enough – just tell them a lot of positive things and pay them compliments and they are sure to develop a healthy dose of self-esteem, right? Well, kind of. Sometimes, out of pure exhaustion, we get a little lazy with our positive reinforcement. A quick “you’re so smart” or “great job” is kind of empty praise so your little loves may not truly internalize that positivity. So what’s a mom to do? How can we make sure that our words are authentic and ring true every time? Here are five ideas for keeping it real.

Five Simple Ways to Build Your Kids’ Self-Esteem

1. Give them Something Precious, Yet Free: Undivided Attention

The phone is ringing, the microwave is dinging and “buzz,” here comes a notification that your bestie has just posted her very first photo of her newborn on Facebook. We are a generation of multi-taskers, but there’s just one thing you can’t multi-task, and that’s attention.

I am ashamed, but I will admit: I’ve asked my child about his day at school while answering a work email. I’ve thrown some crackers on a plate for lunch in front of the TV while I’m on the phone. Sound familiar? You may not think kids notice this divided attention, but they really do. Especially if it happens all the time.

One simple way to boost your kids’ self-esteem is to just be present and give them your undivided attention when they are talking to you. Is everything they are saying super important? No. Sometimes there will be a long rambling story about something that makes no sense to you, but the story is not what matters. The message it sends your child when you focus fully on them – I am important, what I have to say matters – is what it’s all about.

2. Put a Little Responsibility on their Shoulders

Your kids may balk when you give them chores, but you’ll be amazed at how much they really get into it once they get started. Why? Small jobs such as dusting or sweeping help kids feel like a valuable member of the household. Not to mention the fact that they will be learning new skills. Each time they do the chore they will be getting better and better at it and develop more pride in their work. A simple chore chart with stickers shows that you paid attention to their job well done.

Want to give more incentive? Give them a prize when the chart is finished. My little girl wanted a Baby Alive doll. She worked for two months to get it! Now, it’s not just another toy. It’s a special token to remind her that she worked hard and accomplished her goal.

Little girl sweeping and dusting house

3. Leave a Love Note

You know when someone compliments your outfit? Or just randomly tells you have a great laugh? Never underestimate the power of a simple gesture. It can brighten your child’s whole day. So how does it work? Get creative! I keep a stack of sticky notes in the kitchen. Sometimes I write a note for a lunch box and other times I leave notes around the house for my child to find.

So what do you write? Any words of encouragement or affirmation are great – as long as they are true. Be as specific as you can so your thoughts don’t feel generic. Love their smile? Are they becoming a stronger swimmer? Are they really getting the hang of reading? Do they have a great drawing style? Say so! Do you need to do this every day? No, notes every day will become normal and expected. A note every once in a while is way more magical.

4. Don’t Try to Fix Things Too Quickly

This one is tough because, as moms, we’re there too help. But when you always swoop in and save the day, what message does that send to your kid? When you do something for her that she can do for herself, she gets the message that she’s not capable or that you don’t believe in her.

Right now, my daughter is learning to tie her shoes. She is determined to get them tied herself. She gets frustrated when she can’t do it right away, which makes me want to step in and show her how it’s done. Plus, we’re always running late and she takes FOREVER. And I’m like just. Tie. The. Shoe. BUT I have to be okay with seeing my kids frustrated every once in a while, even if it also means we’ll miss the first scene of the movie or get to our play date late. When she does get it, she is so pumped up about herself! And that feeling for both of us is definitely worth the wait.

5. Model Healthy Mama Self Talk

You know it, but we all sometimes forget it: kids hear everything. Like, everything. Especially things you don’t want them to hear. And that goes for things we say to ourselves too. You may not realize that you are even engaging in self talk, but most of us do it every day. Are you too hard on yourself sometimes? Try to remember to curb that negative self-talk.

The other day, I was walking with my kids and looking for an address for a birthday party. I was so busy looking around that I didn’t notice the broken pavement in front of me. I tripped and fell to the ground. As I was getting skinned knees up off the ground all I could think was “that was really dumb, how did I not see that?” BUT I quickly caught myself and said instead, “I’m okay. Next time I will pay better attention to where I am walking.” That was a proud mom moment for me. Not only did I set the right example for my kids, I felt better about my own self esteem too.

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