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5 Tips for Helping Your Children Develop Lasting Self-Esteem

Posted: January 10, 2018

Self-est*eem (n.): A confidence and satisfaction in oneself.
(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Notice that the definition given be Merriam-Webster does not use the word VALUE? Self-Esteem, arguably the basis for all positive emotion, should have nothing to do with the value one sees in oneself.  Instead, as parents, mentors, coaches, and educators, we should be looking to enhance a child's confidence and levels of satisfaction in what they do.  One way to accomplish these goals is to get them involved in the community.  Helping them find positive ways to integrate into the community will ensure healthy development and a strong sense of self-esteem. 

Here are five tips parents, and other responsible adults, can use to engage children in the creation of a healthy level of self-esteem through community involvement: 

1. Get Local
One of the best ways to get your children interested in what goes on in the community is to get them involved in activities that bring them both a sense of accomplishment and community. For instance, martial arts have proven to be one of the most effective sources of mentoring on how to be respectful of others while developing self-confidence.  Regardless of the activity you select, be sure to research the opportunity thoroughly.  A good program should not only teach your child new skills and encourage growth, it should also give them a chance to meet new people and learn things they wouldn't have at home.  Finally, it should encourage trying new things and exploring their natural gifts without the fear of losing to someone better, competition can be a strong motivator, or demotivator, competitive activities should always be monitored closely.

2. Open Their Horizons
Nothing builds a child's self-esteem faster than seeing their efforts make a difference.  Getting involved in the community and solving a problem or contributing to an effort can make a huge impact on a child. To help your child get involved, start by helping them understand why they need to be involved.  Based on their age, help them to explore their world and see what is going on in their community and the nation. With reasonable filtering, local newsgroups are a fantastic resource.  Many youth groups and martial arts schools also make excellent resources for helping you relate current events to your children and what they are experiencing. As your child makes these connections, you and a good mentor or coach can help your child figure out how they can make a difference.  With each effort they make towards helping something get better their self-esteem will grow.

3. Get Creative
Creativity leads to connectivity through the development of empathy.  This happens because the child is encouraged to explore their world and given freedom of expression in a healthy way.  As they connect with others and begin to create they also start to develop understanding of, and sensitivity to, the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others. When they display this empathy they immediately see their ability to positively impact their world, a wonderful way to build their self-esteem! Creativity does not exist in a vacuum, children need to join groups, learn to play a musical instrument and participate in other creative endeavors that bring them into regular community with others. Every child is different, help your child find an activity that they enjoy and gives them this ability to express themselves through creativity within a community.

4. Comfort Leads To Growth
When children are among friends they feel less intimidated. Getting them into activities where they are participating with a group of children their age is very important.  If this is not feasible, get involved with them yourself!  Having a friend, new or established, in the activity with them helps them feel more at ease, allowing them to try new things without feeling nervous or uncomfortable.  The presence of Mom or Dad right beside them, doing the same things they are, can also provide this source of security and allow them to grow in confidence and self-esteem at a much faster pace.  While many community activities and groups either discourage or do no allow this mixed-age participation, most martial arts schools encourage it.  As a child first starts martial arts they often need that reinforcement of having a parent on the mats.  With time, often not long, they transition to having friends within the class that become their support group and no longer rely on Dad or Mom.  Regardless of where they draw their comfort, the journey to better self-esteem is not one they should be making alone. 

5. Encourage Volunteerism
Remember we saw how exploring their community and getting involved is an important aspect of developing self-esteem? Well, once they see things they want to change and improve, help them find ways to make that happen! Volunteering can be an incredibly powerful activity, one that gives children an opportunity to make a difference without needing special training or resources.  From donating to a food pantry to helping out at the local animal shelter these types of activities can help a child build not only self-esteem but a healthier body. Whether the activity has a tangible outcome such as cleaning up trash at a park or other public space or is more about helping people and watching it put a smile on their face, these activities can bring a sense of satisfaction that no object or other form of reward can give them. Volunteering is also a wonderful way to teach children responsibility, morals, and respect for themselves and others, which is why many martial arts schools include these activities as requirements for promotion.

These are just a few ideas for helping children grow healthy levels of self-esteem.  Most children are social, but being social is not enough.  Some children are athletic, but competitive sports can be as destructive as they are helpful when it comes to building a child’s self-esteem.  The key is to pay close attention to the child and help them select activities appropriate to their nature. Help them to get involved in the community and find their place in it, everyone has something to contribute.