It is heartbreaking for parents to see their child feel that they don’t measure up to their peers. Understandably, parents worry of the emotional impact on their child. Indeed, it has been found that low self-esteem in adolescence predicts depression up to two decades later (Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014).
So, how can one help increase their child or teenager’s self-esteem? The easy answer would be to praise them heavily, right? After all, getting compliments should make them feel better, no? It turns out that recent research published in Psychological Science has revealed that this strategy may actually backfire on parents (Brummelman, Thomaes, Orobio de Castro, Overbeek & Bushman, 2014). Indeed, not only does it convey to children that they should continue to try to meet very high standards, but it also leads children to avoid important learning experiences.
What is a parent to do then? While receiving inflated praise may make a child feel loved and appreciated (although they may notice it is phony), one important problem is that it does not help them develop their sense of competence, which directly feeds in their self-esteem. Developing self-competence, then, would be a great way to promote self-esteem.
Here are a few ways to encourage self-competence and self-esteem in your kids and teenagers:
- Let them take healthy risks. Do not constantly try to avoid experiences of failure for your child. These will happen at some point, and your child needs to know how to deal with these feelings too.
- Let your child make age-appropriate choices. This is a great way to make them feel that they have some power over their life.
- Help your child set realistic goals. For example, if your child is struggling in her piano lessons and can’t get this new piece, why not go back to easier and fun pieces? Your child will get to the more difficult ones when she’s ready, and will continue to love playing piano rather than despising it.
- Do offer some praise. However, make sure it is focuses on the effort rather than the outcome, and is offered with a genuine tone.
At Canoe Therapy, we’re committed to providing a comprehensive range of therapies for kids of all ages in the greater Toronto area. Our areas of expertise include behavioural, occupational & speech therapy, as well as physiotherapy and psychology. If you’re interested in beginning your journey with Canoe, contact our Burlington or Etobicoke therapy center today.