Clothing, food, and shelter are staples that we all need to survive. As a parent, your first and foremost responsibility is to ensure that your children have access to these basic needs on a daily basis. However, your parental responsibilities extend far beyond providing tangible objects. Often, the most valuable gifts you can pass on to your children are not things that can be seen or touched. This week, your trusted online counselor is here to talk about one of the most valuable (yet intangible) gifts you can bestow upon your children: high self-esteem.
The Importance Of A Child’s Self-Esteem
The value of a child’s self-esteem cannot be underestimated. Self-esteem is different than cockiness or being “full of yourself” – self-esteem means knowing your worth as a human being and respecting that value. As children grow up, they become exposed to countless different people, ideas, beliefs, relationships, and ways of life. Because children with high self-esteem know their value, they are less likely to submit to peer pressure in an attempt to gain acceptance from their peers. Children with low self-esteem, on the other hand, are often much more likely to become involved in detrimental or abusive relationships and engage in other types of risky behavior.
National Teen Self-Esteem Month
In recognition of the incredible importance of self-esteem in young people, May has been designated National Teen Self-Esteem Month. Groups and organizations all over the nation participate in this great cause by hosting various workshops, programs, and events centered around the theme “I Am Worth More.”
Self-esteem isn’t something that can be taught in a classroom. Self-esteem is something that must be instilled in them by their parents, teachers, friends, extended family members, employers, and other adult role models. The closer the adult role model is to the teenager, the greater his/her influence will be on the teen’s self-esteem. Peers are also powerful influences; the types of reinforcement your teen receives from her peer group will likely have a strong impact on her self-esteem as well.
Boosting Your Teen’s Self-Esteem
As parents, you will have the strongest influence over your teenager’s self-esteem. In honor of National Teen Self-Esteem Month, your online mental health counselor is offering a quick list of some of the ways you, as the parent, can help improve your teen’s self-esteem.
- Praise Generously. If you are proud of something your teen accomplished, tell him. If you are impressed with his effort (even if he hasn’t landed actual results yet), tell him. If you think he looks particularly handsome one day, tell him. It’s easy to focus on the negative and forget to appreciate the positive, but your praise will go a long way towards enhancing your teen’s self-esteem.
- Critique Privately. No one is perfect. Inevitably, your teen will sometimes do things that will require you, as the parent, to deliver some consequences. If you must critique or criticize, do so in private so as not to damage your teen’s public image (and, in turn, her self-esteem). Stick with constructive criticism whenever possible. Also, be sure to follow criticism with the reinforcement that while she may have done something that wasn’t okay, she is still a great person.
- Encourage Decision-Making & Independence. As the parent, it is all too easy to step in and handle certain challenging tasks for your teen so that you can be confident that they are done correctly. Unfortunately, doing everything yourself not only makes your life harder – it takes independence away from your teen and hurts their self-confidence. Remain available as a resource, but encourage your teen to make his own decisions, handle his own responsibilities, and clean up his own messes.
- Take Your Teen’s Side. Today’s teenagers are subject to all kinds of tough situations. Whether your teen is questioning her sexual orientation, engaging in an ongoing conflict with a classmate, or having trouble at her summer job, it’s important to show her that you are on her side. Even if you think she is in the wrong, let her know that you can see her side of the story, too.
- Make Boundaries & Expectations Clear. As the parent it is your job to set safe, clear, and healthy boundaries for your teenager. If you need him to take out the trash or help get dinner started before he goes to meet up with friends, make sure that expectation is clear. If he is not allowed to go to a certain location, set this ground rule and explain why you are setting this limit. If he fails to perform these tasks or abide by these limits, follow up with fair, reasonable consequences. Setting boundaries calmly and respectfully is an important way to show your teen that you care about him and that you rely on him – both things that will go a long way towards building his self-esteem.
Samantha M. Ruth, MA LLP
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