As a parent, there are many gifts that you will give your child – a great education, a healthy lifestyle and all the material things money can buy. But all of these pale in comparison to the gift of self esteem. None of the above mean a lot if a child grows up not feeling “very good about himself,” or not having confidence in his abilities to accomplish much.
The benefits of fostering self esteem and confidence in kids are virtually limitless. Confident kids tend to be more creative than shy kids who may have lowered self esteem levels. Children who are raised (unintentionally) to think poorly about themselves are the most at risk for poor performances in school, and later college.
None of this however, means that empty praise is the route to self esteem. In fact, we’ve seen a backlash against too much praise – a generation of kids raised to believe they were great just for picking up a glass, and placing it back on the table.
Inane praise doesn’t help your child. On the contrary, kids grow up with an inflated sense of self worth and worse, they fail to challenge themselves. When your doting parents are telling you everything you do is great, and not a word about how you could improve on your skills, it only prepares for a grand fall when you go out into the real world, and find people aren’t as impressed with you as your folks were.
Effective self esteem building in preschoolers has to focus on enthusiasm and energy for a task or activity, and not just the result. Praise the efforts that your child makes whether in a drawing or at school or a chore he completes around the house, but also remember to add a challenge at the end of it – “That was a great sea you drew, now let’s see how well you can do a house.”
Here are a few quick ways to get your preschooler to feel good about himself.
Enlist His Help
Give him chores to do around the house. For 5 year olds, it could be helping you set the table or washing veggies in the kitchen with you. It gives them a sense of accomplishment that they can be proud of. For younger kids, give them a chance to sort spoons and forks.
Create a Love Map
Make a list of 25 of his favorite things, and then fill them up together. Include everything you can think of – his favorite food, movie, song, cartoon character. You’re developing his sense of identity as an individual with firm likes.
Play the Body Part Game With Him
Sit your child down, and sit opposite him. Point out different parts of his face and body, and tell him what he can do with them.
Point to his eyes and say “You have eyes that see everything.” (Ask him to point out five things he can see in the room.)
“You have two ears that hear many things.” (Use objects to create a sound or imitate noises yourself.
“You have a nose to smell any thing.” (sniff in the air)
“You have a mouth that can taste many things.” (Give him a sweet to put in his mouth and ask him what it tastes like.)
End with an affirmation of his abilities – “You can do so much with yourself.”
Play the Dinner Game
Create a story around your child and his favorite foods. It could go like this:
(Child’s name) woke up early in the morning today. He brushed his teeth, put on his clothes and had (ask him to say what he had for breakfast here) for breakfast.He played with his toys, and then when it was time for lunch he ate (ask him to add whatever he had to eat for lunch).
Again, you’re developing a sense of self importance. He’s the star of the story!
Plus, you’re encouraging his language skills.More games like this, and he’ll find it easier to add things and activities that he’s completed during the day to the story. Encourage him to add as many activities as he wants to the story.
Compare Baby Pictures
Sit down with your child, and look through his baby pictures. Compare his facial features, hands and feet now with how they are in the pictures. Tell him how he’s grown, and list out all the things he can do now with his body that he couldn’t do when he was a baby. Again, you’re building a feeling of importance and pride.