One of the biggest concerns for parents is how to build their child’s sense of self esteem. Of course we all want our children to be happy, successful and to feel they belong in the world.
Let’s reverse-engineer a bit here: we know that children admire their parents. First off, why is that? Well, if you look at the implications from Attachment theory (Bowlby, Ainsworth, Main), it seems children admire their parents as part of their love and part of feeling safe in the world. If my parent is wonderful, they can (and hopefully will) keep me safe all kinds of dangers.
How can we use the fact of children’s admiration and idealization of their parents? Simple – show your investment in your child. What does this mean? Let your child know he or she matters to you. When you attend her soccer game, ACTUALLY pay attention to the game and to her play.
Involve yourself in your child’s life. Get to know his or her friends. Know your child’s interests, and explore those interests together. “You like dinosaurs… let’s spend some time learning about dinosaurs online.” “Let’s get a book about dinosaurs.” “Let’s look at your book about dinosaurs” (YES, even if it is for the 10,000th time!). “Let’s draw some dinosaurs!” “Let’s be dinosaurs, what kind are you? What kind should I be?” Since your child admires you, your attention is one factor in building his or her self esteem.
The most important fact here is you GENUINELY give your attention and your love to your child. Even if you work many hours, you can still make simple tasks like chores or going to the store a fun time together. Talk while folding clothes together. Make a game out of matching socks. When you are at the store, make your time with your child the priority. If you come home with the wrong cereal, no one will really care. However, your child will know she or he was spending time with Mom(s) and/or Dad(s).
Many different theorists have led us to the same point – children idealize and admire their parents. When parents invest themselves in their children, the children feel valued and loved. This translates into feeling secure and having positive self-esteem.