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How to Enhance Self-Esteem in our Children

January 3, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

enhance self-esteem

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In a world of participation trophies and empty praise, how do we really help improve self-esteem in our children and adolescents? Some of our current efforts to enhance self-esteem may actually be hurting our kids rather than helping them. For example, giving out participation trophies for just showing up may decrease the value of rewards. Later in life, these same children may expect rewards for very little work. However, in an article by Dr. Fader, a sports psychologist, he suggested that we should give participation trophies for children who have exhibited a lot of dedication and effort.

There’s also a concern that a lot of today’s college students have grown up in an environment full empty praise. This might result in a person with inflated self-esteem and a reduced ability to handle criticism and failure in the future.

What does empty praise mean?

This is when a person is given praise for performance that may be mediocre, if not poor. One aspect of this is giving out participation trophies or awards that weren’t truly earned. My husband was a coach for a middle school football team. They would let anyone who came out for football be on the team. There was no effort involved in earning that spot on the football team.

One problem with all of this is that it may not help a child figure out what they are really good at, which is a part of developing self-esteem.

What do we need to do instead to enhance self-esteem?

1.Identify areas that they perform well in and that are important to them: Thus, high self-esteem comes from performing well in areas that are meaningful. For example, it was important for me to do well in academics, and it was something that I am good at. So, I do have high self-esteem in this area.

2.Emotional support and approval: Children need emotional support and approval  in order to enhance their self-esteem. For example, if your child puts in a lot of effort for a science project, praise them for that effort. There are some who come from homes where it is unavailable, so it can from other mentors such as teachers and/or coaches.

3.Teach skills: Self-esteem can also be enhanced through teaching skills, so this in turn can foster a sense of achievement. If children are taught to paint or play the piano, this can enhance self-esteem.

4.Face problems: Children and adolescents should be taught to face problems head on and to learn how to solve them. For example, if a child is struggling with how a friend is treating them, then I would help the child problem solve ideas on how to handle this. This should help foster a sense of achievement and self-worth.

Thus, while we always want the best for our kids and to protect them, we also need to help them conquer failure and competition. They should know how to handle that well, because this is an aspect of life. At the same time, they also need our support and guidance, but it should be in a productive way that ultimately helps enhance their resilience.

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