Childhood is undeniably the most formative years of human life. It is a developmental phase characterized by lots of learning, indoctrination, inculcation of beliefs, and the development of lifestyle. A lot of things happen at this stage, and most of them will impact the child in a way that shapes their orientation throughout their lifetime.

As a parent, you can only try so hard to protect your child from negative societal constructs that could tarnish their perception of themselves or their environment. Nevertheless, you have to put in some effort to ensure that your child maintains healthy self-esteem into adulthood.

Why do I need to nurture my child's self-esteem?
We are in a generation where we try to accord our kids a lot of independence and freedom to explore. However, if this independence exposes them to experiences that make them too self-critical, you will need to step in as quickly as possible to correct that orientation.

Psychologists have likened the human mind to a 'tabula rasa' – Latin for 'clean slate.' A concept analyzed by John Locke in his publication An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. He made it clear that while a young mind can be likened to a clean slate, it is not empty.

In the publication, he acknowledged some innate mental dispositions such as self-awareness, emotions, sensations, etc. The mind of a child utilizes these traits to translate and uphold experiences in their environment as reality. Gradually, this clean slate becomes filled up, forming a manual that would, to a great extent, determine how a child perceives life, forever.

If your child develops low self-esteem, it could make it hard for them to deal with life challenges. They are likely to dwell on their failures, embrace self-doubt, negative self-talk, become too critical of themselves, and lack confidence. Growing up with such attributes can damage their mental health even as adults, making them easily prone to depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues.

You likely don't want your child to go through all that. You want whatever that occupies your child's slate to be something that boosts your child's self-esteem. You want your child to:

  • Feel confident in themselves and what they can do
  • Believe in themselves and acknowledge what they do or can do
  • Feel like an acceptable and valued member of the society
  • Feel capable and valuable
  • Hold themselves in a positive light, and feel good about themselves

How to nurture a child's self-esteem

There are various ways you can nurture your child's self-esteem; eight of the most effective ones are discussed briefly below.

1. Be the role model your child deserves
Remember, your child is most influenced by factors in their environment – and you are one of those factors. If you are the sort of person who dwells on negativity or exhibits characters that are commonly attributed to low self-esteem, then your kid is more likely to pick up those characters.
Therefore, working on yourself to be a good role model with healthy self-esteem is a good first step to nurturing your child's self-esteem.

2. Become an unconditional parent
This simply means focusing your attention on the child, understanding who they are, how they express their emotions, logic, thought processes, and what triggers them. As you seek to understand your child fully, you will become more available to them emotionally and otherwise. You will understand why they act the way they do, what puts them in a particular mood, and how to structure activities that help them reach positive outcomes.
Unconditional parenting means being an active parent instead of a reactionary parent who just uses punishment or reward as a response to a child's behavior. You understand your child's insecurities and help them develop skills and knowledge to overcome them. This will make it easier for them to deal with situations independently, and boost their chances of reaching the desired outcome. They will recognize their strengths, and their self-esteem will be improved.
Your role as a loving parent should not be conditioned by your child's abilities, talents, or achievements. Make them feel loved, valued, and safe, irrespective of what they can or cannot do.

3. Teach them to learn from mistakes
Everything cannot be perfect. Assuming the role of a perfectionist can damage your child's perception of their worth. When a child makes a mistake, you should not reprimand them harshly, nor should you ignore it like it never happened. Doing the former will make them feel terrible and think lowly of themselves, and opting for the latter puts them in a bubble that can only keep them safe and afloat until they hit the challenge again.
The key here is to maintain balance, let every mistake they make be an opportunity to learn and be better the next time they are in a similar situation. "Oh, you broke the plate? Next time you can put what you have in your other hand down and carry the plate with both hands, OK?"

4. Let them pursue their interests
This is one of the easiest ways you can nurture a child's self-esteem. Forcing children to do things that are not aligned with their interests can make their esteem drop quickly. However, encouraging them to pursue their interests offers them a stable emotional balance. Consequently, they become more confident to try out and perform well in other interests they might develop along the line.

5. Drop the comparisons
Comparing your child with anyone, be it their sibling, classmate, friend, or even yourself is a counter-productive measure to nurturing self-esteem. You might think that you are motivating them to do better, but really, that method hardly works. Each individual is unique; hence, they may be better at one thing and not the other, or they take a longer time to reach a milestone than their counterparts would.
By comparing your child with others, you are only encouraging them to develop self-doubt and negative self-talk.

6. Teach them not to dwell on the past
Even as an adult, you can attest that dwelling on past mistakes often makes you feel depressed and stressed out, making it difficult for you to appreciate the present. As stated earlier, you should let every mistake be a learning experience for your child, but you shouldn't drum on it repeatedly. Correcting a child at the spot is enough.
It is not reasonable to remind them of that mistake frequently, having provided them with solutions for improvement and led them on to the present. Create time for them to have fun, and participate in extracurricular activities irrespective of the seeming gravity of their errors, or current difficulties.

7. Boost their morale: praise them
Don't overpraise them. The praises should be in moderation, overpraising a child is like filling a balloon beyond its capacity – it will burst. An over-praised child might overestimate their capabilities, take unwarranted risks, become too rigid, discard others' opinions without consideration, and alienate their friends or loved ones. It could be detrimental to their overall well-being and success.
If you are to praise your child, you should do it in moderation, offer honest praise that does not blow up their ego. More importantly, it is more effective to praise the means which they used to reach the result that warranted the praise, instead of just the result. By appreciating the process, the child learns to believe in their abilities, and their self-esteem gets a boost.

8. Give them age-appropriate tasks
From as young as two, children can be taught to undertake simple tasks like putting their dirty clothes away or keeping things in the appropriate place. Simple chores like this can help them acknowledge their value and exercise their competence. Being able to complete tasks helps to build a child's esteem and make them feel undaunted in the face of challenges they might encounter in school or the community.

Always bear in mind that each child is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nurturing a child's esteem. While one step might not work, another could work. If you notice your child sinking into debilitating low self-esteem despite all your efforts, it is best to seek professional help.

Author's Bio: 

Aurelien Bouchet is an Austin-based writer. He received her B.S. in Journalism from Missouri State University and writes about addiction recovery, health, and well-being for Nova Recovery Center. In his spare time, Aurelien enjoys outdoor activities with his family like hiking, camping, and kayaking.