There was a time I shook my head when I’ve seen other parents yell at their cute 3 year old daughter only because she didn’t want to pick up her shoes. Why are they so impatient and put themselves above their child? Like this they will never raise children’s self esteem. Why do they react with a louder voice instead of some jokes, clever strategies and self-composure?
After 5 years of constant travel my kids turned 5 and 3 years. There are only few situations, when I started being such a mother. One I would have shook my head at if I’d seen her. But most of the times I’m f***ing proud of having two children with a huge basket full of self esteem. Being a psychotherapist, a mother and a travel addict I get often asked for advice. Here’s a collection of ways if you want to raise children’s self esteem.
I collected the most important ways to raise children’s self esteem:
1. Every baby has already an own personality
Some parents get confused when their child starts to have an own opinion, creates likes and dislikes and isn’t anymore only a creature who wants food at certain times. Kids have their own personality and it’s the task of us parents to accept that. Even enhance this stage. However, we cut off our nose to spite our face. With a bullhead, self-confident and fully aware child we have to discuss topics like: “Why are not all air-planes purple? I wanna fly only with purple air-planes.” “Mommy, are you sure you’re not driving too fast. It’s only 30 km/h here.”
They start soon to be totally different than the child we would have liked to create. They become themselves. We can either like it or loose the connection.
2. Respect is a two-way thing with one-way effort
Why should I criticize my daughter yelling at her sister if I yelled at her? Whenever we work with pressure the little, cute terrorists will use that experience to put pressure on somebody else, logically someone with less power. If I trained the terrorist in “Different ways to put pressure on a trainee” the terrorist will expect praise from me. He did everything right, as I’m his role model.
To create that huge amount of energy to stay calm in all weird and abstruse situations is the big task.
From the beginning our child has the goal to please us. They want to see us smile and say “Good job! Well done, honey!”. It’s their way of learning to copy our behaviour and show it as often as possible. No need to educate your child. Work on your own pattern. Your positive behaviour will be copied and you can praise yourself afterwards.
BTW: we need to show new behaviour at least 21 times to create a habit. If you want to stop yelling, breath in and out and then lower your voice. Do this 21 days and it feels totally odd to yell.
3. Shaping behaviour only by praise – critique won’t work
I’ve talked to the Business Coach and Professor at the University of Kempten Mark Baker about changing behaviour. He told me, that you won’t change a childs’ behaviour neither your bosses one by telling him what he does wrong. To know which way is the wrong one doesn’t automatically tell us which one is the right one. Out of confusion, habit or laziness one is likely to choose the wrong way again.
If my child yells at her sister, beats and spits at her I have to accept that this is the best way she can behave in this situation right now. She has no other possibility at the moment but chooses the one she got to know. If I tell her, that it’s not nice to beat her sister the likeliness that she changes her behaviour is almost zero.
To change ones behaviour we have to work with praise – and only praise according to Prof. Mark Baker. Every single step direction the volitional has to be complimented.
Whenever my daughter discusses an issue of conflict in a satisfactory manner I tell her: “You explained your point of view very well, darling. I’m sure your sister can understand this a lot better now.”
The likeliness that she shows this behaviour again to please me is very high.
4. Safe atmosphere in new surroundings
We often observe, that our kids are balanced although we’re on the road for several weeks. They need to sleep in a different bed each night and don’t even understand the language. It all depends on the information flow. Sometimes it’s only me and my husband who discuss the next destination. Where to go tomorrow and what to do there, if we’d like to do some sightseeing or rather spend the day on the pool. Our kids start asking thousands of “why?”-questions if we don’t involve them in our planning. They need to know what’s going on to feel safe. Not every child will react with questions, but with bad mood, refusal to eat or aggressive behaviour.
To maintain the safe atmosphere involve them in your plannings. A family consists out of parents plus kids. Anyway, it’s the parents who have the responsibility, but not the whole decision-making power. Every individual in the family should be equal in making decisions, speak out and actively take part.
5. Challenge and belief in them
On our trip through Romania we were sitting in a hotel downtown having breakfast. Unfortunately the hotel didn’t have the meat paste our kids love. We gave them money (they were 2 and 4 years old) and sent them to the nearby supermarket. Without speaking the same language, nor having stayed there longer than 1 night they went there and bought it. For sure we hid behind corners and shelves to make sure they safely arrive.
There are several situations that raise children’s self esteem. Monkey bars, playgrounds, shopping alone or just order juice in the restaurant by themselves makes them more self-confident. They have to make the experience of satisfaction after achieving something on their own. So we as parents shouldn’t limit our praise but fully appreciate their success. After a certain time this external motivation (they do it because they want praise from you) will turn into internal motivation (they buy themselves an ice-cream and are happy because they did it on their own, maybe don’t even tell you).
6. Live in reality than in mystery
Kids are very curious individuals. They have the tendency to ask “why?” much more often than we can cope with. Nevertheless, it’s their way of exploring the world and look behind the scenes. At the beginning there’s the mystery called world. Kids have no clue how the world works, why there’s crime and police and how babies are made.
If we start to give mysterious answers like whatever story how babies are made, we avoid reality. There’s no need to avoid life how it is. For children the world isn’t yet good nor bad, it is how it is. They are unspoiled and don’t fear darkness, monsters in the wardrobe or spiders. It’s us who tell them stories about animals fearing the darkness or the monster living in our house. With these stories we miss the opportunity to leave the world how it is: neutral.
My daughter was 4 years old when she asked me how babies are made. I told her the truth and she was totally fine with that. There are no secrets or mysteries. She wasn’t shocked at all – why should she be? It’s not dirty or bad, it’s just how the circle of life goes. And I’m sure you can’t know early enough about these things to be prepared.
7. One doesn’t do that! – But I still love you, no matter what you do.
Our own upbringing is the main factor why we use sentences like “One doesn’t do that!” to teach our children do’s and don’ts of behaviour in society. To be honest: The child doesn’t care if one does it or not. They might obey to do you a favour, but not because of social cultural conventions. We can explain properly the reasons behind certain conventions and codes of conducts. But it’s our child’s decision to act likewise or not. However, we need to make sure our child always knows that we love him unconditionally. Although he smashed the beloved vase or erupted in a tantrum five minutes ago. We love him because of his personality and not because of his behaviour.
Isn’t it the best declaration of love when our partner tells us that he loves us, no matter what we do? Just because we are who we are. This raises our self esteem, and it raises also our children’s self esteem.
If someone would ask you: Which value is the most important one you want to give your child? I would answer self-esteem. To raise my children’s self esteem is an investment. They are less likely unemployed, bullied at school or without opinion. They will take part at life, make their own decisions and feel accepted the way they are.