Motivate and encourage self-esteem with young children

By promoting autonomy, parents support their children’s individuality, empowerment and self-determination. In fact, autonomy-supportive parenting is associated with all sorts of positive child outcomes, such as increased school adjustment and psychosocial functioning (Joussemet, Landry & Koestner, 2008).

Dealing with fears and challenges is a part of life; but when parents provide a combination of empathy and encouragement (in cartoon: “You’ve trained so hard, so give it everything you’ve got”), children develop the self-confidence to safely explore the world and try new things. Helping children sooth themselves during stressful times (e.g., by taking a deep breath) is also a good coping mechanism that kids can implement on their own in a variety of situations. When children deal with challenges, optimistic parents who remind children of their past successes, enhance their children’s resilience while fostering belief in future endeavors (in cartoon: “Remember, last time you did great”). Such challenges need also to be approached with unconditional love, such that children know that, regardless of mistakes, their parents will love them no matter what. This warm, loving and supportive parenting style improves children’s confidence while empowering them with the knowledge and tools necessary to approach life as fully capable individuals.

It is also important that you point out that success comes from hard work and not intelligence or talent. If your child does well on a task, you might say, “you are so talented” or “you are so smart!”. According to research by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, praising children for their natural ability can be counter productive. Once people start to think that success is linked to skills and talent (versus hard work), they tend to think that failures come from their lack of natural abilities. This often results in a person giving up early rather than persisting through difficulty.

Instead, praise your children for their hard work (“You have really worked hard at that”). Studies show that focusing on the effort and determination makes people better at overcoming future obstacles. However, Carol Dweck also points out that you should only give praise for hard work if hard work was indeed performed (empty praise is counter productive).

Key take-aways to encourage your child’s self-esteem:

1) Empower your child and promote independence.

2) When doubt happens, encourage your child by reminding them of past successes (in cartoon: “Remember, last time you were stressed, but you still did great”).

3) Success comes from hard work, and not just intelligence or talent. If your child has worked hard and does well on a task, be quick to praise them (in cartoon: “You’ve trained so hard”).