Building self-esteem is a core component of bullying prevention. With a healthy self-esteem, your teens will not only be more confident, but they also will be able to identify their strengths – and their weaknesses – and still feel good about themselves. A healthy self-esteem also helps protect teens from bullying. Bullies are less likely to target kids that are confident in who they are. And, if they are targeted, their solid self-esteem will help them cope with bullying.
Remember, people who bully others are looking for someone who will react to their hurtful words or actions. As a result, bullies target teens who are not confident or assertive. But if your teen shrugs off a bully’s verbal attack, make light of it or simply shows no emotional reaction, the bully will be less likely to try again.
Fostering a healthy self-esteem in your kids has other benefits too. For instance, a solid self-esteem protects teens from the pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships and dating abuse. Here are ideas on how to build self-esteem in your child (children)..
1. Spend Time With Your Child
When you spend time with your teens, you are communicating that they are important, which goes a long way in developing self-esteem. Additionally, spending time together allows you to build a solid relationship. That foundation becomes extremely important as they face more and more challenges. Kids who know their parents love them unconditionally will fair much better when life gets tough than kids who feel like an afterthought in their parents’ lives.
2. Encourage Your Child to Pursue Her Passions
When teens have areas in their lives where they feel confident, this attitude will carry over into other areas of life, reducing the likelihood that they will be bullied. Any enjoyable activity your child excels in will build confidence. Help your teens draw on their strengths and find something they enjoy. Then, help her pursue these passions.
3. Allow Your Child to Make Mistakes
Encourage your teens to take reasonable risks and try not to shelter them or rescue them from life’s setbacks. Allow your teen to experience setbacks and disappointments without feeling a sense of failure. Instead, teach them how to learn from situations and move on. Doing so will go a long way in developing resiliency in your kids.
4. Show Your Child Unconditional Love
Make sure your teen knows that you love her just the way she is. And do not be afraid to tell her that you are proud of her, even when she fails. This is not the same thing as “pumping up her ego.” Instead, stress that perfection is not important but hard work and effort is. Kids who see themselves as adequate, competent and loved will not feel threatened by the differences or successes of others.
5, Encourage Your Child to Volunteer
It can be very rewarding and fulfill for teens to volunteer in some way. Whether it’s cleaning up a local park, packing groceries at a food pantry or taking cookies to the elderly, volunteering helps them feel like they are part of something important. Additionally, it teaches them gratitude for their own lives and compassion for those less fortunate.
6. Acknowledge Your Child’s Good Choices
Many times, parents correct bad behavior and choices but then forget to acknowledge the good things their teens do. Kids are more likely to believe in themselves and their abilities when they receive positive reinforcement when they do something right. Also, pointing out the positives helps your teen see the world in a more positive light. If you focus only on the negative, then your kids will tend to focus or dwell on the negatives in the world around them.
7. Believe in Your Child’s Competency
Start by assigning basic tasks, responsibilities, and chores. Avoid jumping in and taking over because your teen didn’t do it exactly how you thought it should be done. The same goes for homework. Instead of doing math problems for your kids or typing their papers, provide some instruction or ideas on how they can do it. Allow them to complete the task on their own. When you allow them to work through something without your help – no matter how difficult – you are confirming your belief in their capabilities. Over time, they will learn to believe in their capabilities too.
8. Help Your Child Set Reasonable Goals
Nothing kills self-confidence faster than trying to achieve something that is not attainable. Although you never want to discourage your teen from trying something new or working hard to get something she wants, she still needs to be reasonable. If none of her goals are attainable no matter how hard she works, this is just setting her up to fail and ultimately lose confidence in herself. Instead, help her set goals that will require hard work and perseverance, but are still within her grasp if she applies herself.
9. Praise Your Child for Their Character
Give positive reinforcement for behaviors such as generosity, empathy, cooperation, leadership skills, taking responsibility and courage. Too many times parents only praise their kids for their academic successes and their sports accomplishments. While it is important to complement the hard work your child puts into these things, school and sports are not lifelong like character. Focus on the things that make your child a good person.
10. Refrain From Rescuing Your Child
No parent likes to see their child go through something difficult. Whether it is dealing with a mean friend, getting cut from a sports team or dealing with consequences of a bad choice, it is good for your child to experience these difficulties. What’s more, once the challenge has been dealt with, your teen will feel much more confident. After all, they just went through something hard and survived without having mom or dad soften the blow.
11. Teach Your Child to Be Assertive, But Not Aggressive
Many teens are not naturally assertive. They need to be taught that they can stand up for themselves. It’s also important to teach them the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Explain that aggressive kids try to force other people to think like them or do things their way. Meanwhile, assertive kids are respectful of other people’s differences and ideas but aren’t afraid to assert their own beliefs and ideas. Remember, assertive kids feel comfortable defending themselves when someone says or does something hurtful.
12. Avoid Making Comparisons
Too often parents make the mistake of comparing their kids. They might even label them “smart one” and the “athletic one.” Or the “tall one” and the “short one.” But these types of comparisons can not only lead to envy and sibling rivalry but also can cause sibling bullying as well. Instead, appreciate each teen’s individuality and special gifts without comparing them to one another. You also should avoid comparing your kids to other kids you know. While you may not mean anything by it, it can diminish how your kids see themselves.
13. Teach Your Child That Saying “No” Is Healthy
Your children should feel they have the right to say no to a request that makes them uncomfortable, even if that person is an adult. The key is to teach your kids how to say no respectfully and to set healthy boundaries. For instance, if your son doesn’t want to attend a certain party, he should feel comfortable enough to say “Maybe next time.” And if your daughter doesn’t feel like going shopping with a group of girls, she should feel comfortable enough to say, “No thank you.” As they become more comfortable saying no, they will be more likely to say no in situations that require it like being offered drugs, pressured for sex or being bullied.
Self-confidence and a positive sense of self are two of the greatest gifts parents can give their kids. Children with a high self-esteem not only feel loved and competent, but they also grow into strong, resilient and empowered adults. Make sure you are doing what you can to nurture a positive self-esteem in your teens. Not only will they become better insulated against bullying, but they also will become better people.