It’s all about striking a balance.
As a parent, you may be constantly worrying if you’re doing a good enough job of raising your children. Are you teaching them to be kind and courteous? Are you giving them morals and values that will help them as adults?
Are you making sure that they’re getting the love and attention they need, in whatever aspect that might be? And are you teaching them to have a healthy amount of love for themselves and some self-esteem so that they know their worth?
These questions are completely normal! And your concerns are something that many parents face day in and day out. But when it comes to building a child’s self-esteem, it can feel like a fragile and delicate situation. You want to make sure that you’re teaching them to have a good amount of self-respect without being arrogant. And you want to make sure that they know that they have value as a person without making them feel entitled.
So what’s the best way to help your kids build healthy self-esteem? Is it by constantly praising them and reinforcing how wonderful they are? Is it by reserving praise in some situations? Is it by giving them things that they want and ignoring their behavior?
Where exactly is the comfortable balance that leaves them in the middle? You don’t want to spoil them, but you definitely want them to know that they are loved — and sharing your praise absolutely contributes to that feeling.
According to counselor and YourTango expert Dr. Pat Love, there are three approaches you can take to building and mitigating your child’s sense of self. And one big part of this is to make sure that you’re giving praise where praise is due — specifically, by not letting your child settle for lower goals and then suggesting that those sub-par acts are exemplary.
“To praise a child for unworthy acts is actually developing low self-esteem or self-entitlement,” Dr. Pat Love warns. “They have to have constructive goals. You have to earn it to own it.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should condemn your child or push them to unreasonable extremes. Rather, you should make sure that they have a good idea of what’s a healthy, attainable goal for them to reach toward and what isn’t.
There are other techniques and skills that you, as a parent, can learn to help your child gain self-esteem without getting a huge ego. And likewise, there ways that you can make sure that their self-esteem isn’t flagging because they’re settling, even though they could definitely do better.
In the video above, Dr. Pat Love talks with YourTango about ways you can make sure that your child has self-esteem and not self-entitlement.