It takes confidence to grow up in today’s world. Whether faced with a parent’s divorce, going to a new school, or participating in a swim meet for the first time, kids face a lot of new territory during their childhood and adolescence.

What helps to get them through their daily tasks and life challenges is how they feel about themselves (self-esteem). Children begin developing their self-esteem at a very young age. Self-esteem is affected by how much we feel valued, loved and accepted by the people in our lives.

As much as parents want to think they simply can change or improve their child’s self-esteem, this usually is not the case. Self-esteem, or a person’s idea of his own self-worth, comes from within. However, the people in a child’s life can create an atmosphere in which her self-esteem can be improved.

Self-confidence comes from mastering a task. In other words, kids develop confidence not because their parents tell them they’re great, but because of their own achievements, whether they are big or small. Sure, it’s good to hear encouraging words from mom and dad, but words of praise mean more when they refer to a child’s specific efforts or new abilities.

For instance, if your son wants to learn how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, show him how to do it, set up the ingredients, and let him give it a try. Expect a bit of a mess, but don’t jump in the second some jelly hits the countertop. In fact, avoid any criticism that could discourage him from trying again. If you step in to finish the sandwich, your son will think, “Oh well, I guess I can’t make sandwiches.” But if you have patience for the mess and the time it takes to learn, the payoff will be real.

Someday soon he’ll be able to say, “I’m hungry for lunch, so I’m going to make my own sandwich.” You might even reply, “Great, can you make me one, too?” What a clear sign of your faith in his abilities!

Naturally, parents want to instill a can-do attitude in their children so they’ll boldly take on new challenges and, over time, believe in themselves. While each person is a little different, parents can follow some general guidelines to build their child’s confidence.


So, why is all of this so important to a young person’s growth and development?

Self-esteem plays a role in almost everything we do. Children and teens with high self-esteem do better in school, usually enjoy it more and find it easier to make friends. They tend to have better relationships with friends and family, feel happier, and find it easier to deal with the mistakes, disappointments and failures that are part of life.

We all experience problems with self-esteem at certain times in our lives — especially during the teen years. Changes in appearance and emotions, often brought on by hormonal changes in the body, can throw kids off balance. Parents can help during this time of transition by preparing their teens for all the changes their bodies and minds are going through. The good news is that, because everyone’s self-image changes over time, self-esteem is not fixed for life.

Throughout childhood, parents have many chances to prepare their children to take care of themselves. Sure, it’s great to feel needed, but as kids steadily gain confidence and independence, their relationship with you can be even richer. Eventually, your grown-up kids just might say thanks for how prepared they feel for the road ahead — a road they can take with confidence. 

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