3 Easy Ways to Build Self-Esteem in Toddlers

girlThough the individual days of parenting small children can seem oh so very long, the time we really have with our children as children races by at a mind-numbing speed. One minute we're worrying if they're ever going to take their first steps, and the next they're dancing around, singing along with Taylor Swift about how they're never, ever, ever getting back together with some guy at the top of their 4-year-old lungs, causing their mother to flash-forward to the dating years with panic.

So when I step back and think about the most important qualities I want to try to help instill in my children during this brief period I have raising them, there's one thing that constantly comes to the top of my list -- self-esteem. If nothing else, that's the one thing I think will help them most in life -- that ability to believe in themselves, to have the confidence to embrace who they are, and the strength to explore the world with passion.


But how does a parent help foster that important trait? Especially when we may feel that our own self-esteem is not always the strongest? I caught up with Nancy S. Buck, PhD, president and founder of Peaceful Parenting Inc., to get some tips to help build self-esteem in children, and her advice was surprising ... and quite simple, really. 

She said the most important tip she can offer parents to help grow their child's good self-esteem is to ask questions

"Parents can add information upon which the child may be able to give a better and more accurate self-evaluation," Buck said. "When parents ask their children to focus on their own skills and abilities and accomplishments, self-esteem becomes an inside job."

Here she offers three specifics for children ages 18 months to 5 years of age:

1. If your child is concentrating on a certain skill through play, parents can ask, “I see you are playing with your car. Are you able to make it go fast? What kind of driver are you?”

2. When your child is getting ready to sit for a meal, a parent can ask, “What do we do before we sit at the table?” If the child answers, agree and compliment on good remembering to get ready for a meal. If the child doesn’t remember, the parent can simply say, “We go to the bathroom, then wash our hands. Remember?” As you consistently highlight the routine, eventually your child will remember. Then you can give a compliment on their remembering. Eventually you can begin to ask, “What kind of a rememberer are you when getting ready for a meal?” (This tip can be done around other regular and routine daily living tasks, like: bedtime routine, nap routine, getting dressed routine, getting ready for bed routine, getting out the door for whatever the daily schedule brings.)

3. At the end of the day when you are tucking your child into bed, ask, “What did you do today that makes you feel especially proud?” After the child answers, or if they don’t answer at all, you can name one thing. Be as specific as possible. Like, “I was proud that you put your coat on when I asked so we could go outside for our walk.”

How do you help build self-esteem in your children?


Image via Julie Ryan Evans

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