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Boost your child’s self-esteem

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

10 ways to encourage & empower your child

Self-esteem is one of the most important factors in your child becoming a thriving, confident adolescent who grows up to be a stable, driven and independent adult. We asked well known New York pediatrician Dr Anatoly Belilovsky for the best ways to boost a child's self-esteem.

Mother and Daughter

The importance of self-esteem

Dr Belilovsky's practice, Belilovsky Pediatrics, is considered an Americhoice Center of Excellence in pediatric care. He says that fostering your child's self-esteem instills a sense of motivation to achieve: "Self-esteem is tied to motivation in a feedback cycle -- motivation pushes a child to achieve, achievements fuel self-esteem. Self-esteem also helps children develop into leaders, not followers; they feel more freedom to follow their own interests, set independent goals and be confident in their decision making."

Research shows that children with high self-esteem feel worthwhile and that this feeling of self-worth positively influences their nteractions with family, friends and classmates. They tend to make friends easily, can control their behavior, are cooperative and able to follow age-appropriate rules and show enthusiasm for new activities. They are creative, full of energy and, in general, happy. Additionally, studies have shown a correlation between high self-esteem and health.

10 Ways to boost your child's self-esteem

1. Listen to your child

You know how dismissed you feel when someone doesn't listen to you, but as an adult you can reason that the person was distracted or simply rude. A child may not yet recognize this and end up feeling insignificant and devalued. Take time to sit with your child and really listen to what she wants to tell you.

2. Be encouraging

Dr Belilovsky recommends that you give your child words of encouragement on a regular basis. He says, "They will store this positive reinforcement away and remember it when feeling down about their performance."

3. Don't over-praise

Recognizing your child's accomplishments is essential in fostering self-esteem, but beware of "praise inflation." Dr Belilovsky advises that you save superlative praise for achievements that push your child's personal boundaries. Overusing "big" praise for trivial achievements means that you have no greater praise in reserve for the really praiseworthy actions.

4. Accept your child

Despite your best intentions to get your child to play violin, perhaps he's more interested in sports or art. It's important to accept and support your child's interests – even if those interests aren't your own. Believing in children helps them believe in themselves and feel confident about seeking out things that are important to them.

5. Make sure criticism is constructive

Boosting your child's self-esteem doesn't mean letting him do whatever he wants. Children need limits and rules, and when they misbehave or do something that can put them in danger, it is your job to let them know. Dr Belilvosky recommends constructive critisism that is not shameful or scornful. He says, "Be direct about the [fact that it was the] action, not her personality, that disappointed you. Find something to praise in the middle of critique -- show that you understand the motivation behind the unsuccessful action. You never want to attack your own child's character."

6. Encourage independent decision-making

There are many opportunities for your child to make decisions. Dr Belilovsky says that allowing your child to make her own decisions -- like how to handle a sibling dispute -- will foster independent decision making and give her a feeling of responsibility for the outcome.

7. Openly show love and affection

Children who know they are loved feel more secure in day-to-day dealings as well as deep inside. Showing your child warmth, affection and love will make him feel accepted, signficant and a valuable part of your life and life in general. Be open with your hugs, pats on the back and genuine words of caring. Not only will you show your child that he is worthy of love -- you will help him see that love and affection are natural, normal parts of life.

8. Encourage creativity

Giving children the opportunity to learn about different activities (music, cooking, sports etc.), allows them to find healthy modes of self-expression and fosters their creative spirits. In addition, they gain a sense of mastery and confidence in trying new things. Dr Belilovsky says, "Encourage your children to develop hobbies and interests that they truly enjoy and can develop their skills. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and individuality."

9. Be a good role model

Children learn from their parents. Check in with yourself and make sure your words and actions reflect positive self-esteem. Putting yourself, your spouse or other people down teaches your child that you don't value yourself or others. Show your child that you respect, love and care about yourself and that you find worth in family members, friends and people in general.

10. Coach your child to reach higher goals

Dr Belilovsky says it is essential to show children all the possibilities open to them in life. Coach her -- don't demand from her -- to reach toward higher goals. This puts her in the driver's seat and, over time, this will develop as a cornerstone to her actions.

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