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New Year's resolution: Raising confident children

WITH CHRISTMAS behind us, everyone awaits the start of the New Year. Most of us will be making New Year's resolutions. Well parents, let us resolve to give our kids the best gift ever for the coming year. Let us raising confident kids with a healthy self-esteem.

Without thinking, we fortify our youngsters' self-esteem every day, whether it's by complimenting them on a job well done, kissing them goodbye (assuming they still allow it) or disciplining them for breaking a rule. Here are other ways to instil self-esteem:

BE GENEROUS WITH PRAISE

Not only do children need to achieve, they also need positive feedback and recognition - a real message that they are doing well, pleasing others and 'making it'.

Commend your child not only for accomplishments, but for effort — including those times when effort fails to bring the desired results.

Criticise when necessary, but constructively, and never in a hurtful or demeaning manner.

Instead of saying: "How could you have got that answer wrong?"

Say: "You almost got the answer. With a little extra studying, I'm sure you'll do better next time."

Encourage youngsters to cultivate their talents and interests.

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EVERYBODY EXCELS AT SOMETHING

Everybody needs to excel at something. Let your children follow their passion, whatever it may be. Even interests that you may consider frivolous can provide opportunities for success.

Help them to develop some of the following characteristics:

A sense of belonging

Children need to feel accepted and loved by others, beginning with the family and extending to outside groups.

A sense of personal competence and pride

Children should feel confident in their ability to meet life's challenges. This sense of personal power evolves from having successful life experiences in solving problems independently, being creative, and getting results for their efforts. Setting appropriate expectations, not too low and not too high, is critical to developing competence and confidence. If you are overprotective and they are too dependent on you, or if expectations are so high they never succeed, they may feel powerless and incapable of controlling the circumstances in their life.

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SENSE OF TRUST

Children need to feel trust in you and in themselves. Always keep promises, be supportive and give them opportunities to be trustworthy. This means believing them and treating them as honest persons.

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A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY

Give children a chance to show what they are capable of doing. Allow them to take on tasks without being checked on all the time. This shows trust on your part, a sort of 'letting go' with a sense of faith.

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A SENSE OF MAKING REAL CHOICES AND DECISIONS

Children will feel empowered when they are able to make or influence decisions that they consider important. Include them in everyday family decisions, and implement some of their suggestions. These choices and decisions need to be appropriate for their age and abilities, and for the family's values.

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A SENSE OF ACCEPTING MISTAKES AND FAILURE

Children need to feel comfortable, not defeated, when they make mistakes or fail. Explain that these hurdles or setbacks are a normal part of living and learning, and that they can learn or benefit from them.

Have a happy New Year!

Dr Carleene Grant-Davis is a consultant paediatrician and head, Department of Paediatrics, Cornwall Regional Hospital; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com

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