When you sign up to get Proactive Parenting’s weekly newsletter, and I hope you do, I invite new followers to send in one parenting question for me to answer in the newsletter, anonymously, of course. If you haven’t done that yet, What are you waiting for? Hint, you get a free e-Book when you do!
Here’s this week’s Q&A
Q: “[I’m] looking forward to receiving your newsletters. My question regarding parenting is ‘ How can I improve my child’s self esteem?’ I know how to do this in obvious ways but I would like to learn other methods. I have three daughters!”
A: I get different versions of this question All. The. Time. Other variations of the same question are, “How can you help your child be a strong individual?” Or “How do you create an empowered person?” Or, “How can I help my child become less fearful?” My answer addresses something that’s broader than just giving you a few self-esteem tips, although higher self-esteem will be one of the by-products of applying this principal. Confusing answer? I know…read on.
Let me begin by saying, as far as I know, there isn’t one magic answer here. Even if you do what I’m about to suggest, there are no guarantees that your child will grow up to be strong, empowered, courageous or fearless. All you can do is try. All you can ever do is be the best parent you can be. There are no guarantees in life, of that I am sure.
Each one of us, kids included, have life-lessons to learn. However, these days it seems as if more and more parents are protecting their kids from experiencing, and learning from their life lessons. Parents seem to make excuses for behavior or try to stop their kids from feeling any kind of disappointment or unhappiness. The by-product of that type of parenting is that kids never get to stretch themselves. And stretching yourself is how every one of us learns to be strong, empowered, courageous and fearless, and have high self-esteem.
Think back to a challenging moment in your life, or better yet, a challenging moment in your childhood. When you faced that situation, no one could help you. You had to dig deep and find your own resources to handle the situation. When all was said and done you felt powerful. You felt like you could do anything. You felt yourself smiling from deep inside your soul, you had triumphed.
What you didn’t see, as you went through that experience, is what your parents were feeling. You weren’t aware of their pain or discomfort as they watched you struggle or challenge yourself. My guess is they wanted to rescue you. They wanted to stop your pain. They wanted to scream, “I told you not to do that, now look at the mess you’re in.” But they were wise, gifted parents and they knew you had to learn for yourself, in spite of the pain they felt letting you do it.
I truly believe that no parent wants his or her child to be in pain. All parents feel tremendous apprehension and pain as they watch their children struggle, but struggle they must. Struggling to learn is what moves a human being forward and allows them to grow.
I’m not saying you should cause pain. I don’t believe in punishment or causing physical or emotional pain of any kind. And of course, being who I am, I don’t believe in spanking.
Having said that, I believe there are ways parents can help their kids become strong, empowered, courageous and fearless.
1. Raise your expectations of what your kids are capable of! Raise the bar, so to speak. Always hold the mindset “I know you can, you just haven’t figured out how yet.”
2. Challenge your kids, and I don’t mean academically. Let them figure out for themselves how to handle the problems and mistakes in their life. Let them face the results of their choices, with your support and empathy of course.
3. Teach them the life/emotional skills they’ll need to be successful in this world. That means you have shift the way you think about behavior. Instead of thinking that mistakes are bad, think of mistakes as learning opportunities.
Most people I know who are strong, empowered, courageous and fearless have high self-esteem, it’s the wonderful by-product I spoke of before.
Use last week’s analogy of spring flowers here, too. When your child was born all the gifts, talents and strengths (s)he will need in life are buried deep within. As (s)he grows you water them with love, empathy and support. You fertilize them by enforcing the boundaries and rules you set. And each season a new bud, a new empowered skill, rises up in all its glory and takes its place within the garden of your child’s life. When (s)he leaves home and goes off to college they take their fully bloomed garden with them and allow it to nurture and empower them forever.
I believe that’s how you create strong, empowered, courageous, fearless kids with high self-esteem.
See you next week. Now go hug your kids!