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12 tips for parents: How do I contribute to a healthy self-esteem of my child?

Tipp 1: Practice self-reflection
Tipp 2: Be consistent in your assessment
Tipp 3: No Ego
Tipp 4: Give benevolent but honest feedback
Tipp 5: Train a realistic self-assessment
Tipp 6: Find balance between equal treatment and individual development
Tipp 7: Appreciate appropriate behavior
Tipp 8: Refer your praise to the competence of the child
Tipp 9: Avoid permanent warnings
Tipp 10: Be the role model you want to show
Tipp 11: Offer a wide range
Tipp 12: Explain Marketing
Encouragement: The first 6 months

The deliberate promotion of a healthy self-esteem of children is a central task of parents, educators and our society and also an essential step towards sustainable equality and a better, fairer and happier society in general.

As long as one’s self-esteem is high, there is no reason to devalue other groups. At the same time, a child with healthy self-confidence is less susceptible to negative influences.

The following 12 tips will give you a quick overview of the most important practical findings from studies on self-esteem and stereotypes. If you still have time afterwards, we invite you to read more!

» more about self-esteem and trends in gender differences

For most of our everyday life we switch our brain to autopilot and let our subconscious guide us. The human cognitive capacity would not be sufficient to consciously think about every action. The same applies to education. Instead of always thinking from zero about the meaningfulness and side effects of rules and actions, we make use of standards such as “this has always been done that way” or “this is how everyone does it”. This way, however, we create an ideal basis for stereotypes to grow.

Tip 1: Practice self-reflection

If we are completely honest, sometimes we even know better and still keep on doing things the same way. Why? Are we afraid that others will judge us or do we not want to let go of some stereotypes because they enhance our own self-esteem?

Your child is worth shaking up your cosy world for the better. Be self-critical and constantly check your own opinions and reactions. And if you find out afterwards that a rule was nonsense or that you reacted with prejudice, talk to your child about it and apologize if necessary. Explain why your reaction was wrong, why you had it and what the truth is.

Why?

  • Stereotypes work like walls in our heads and with these walls we restrict our children in their development. Stereotypes also contain judgments. Even if we don’t notice, we pass them on to our children, influencing their self-esteem and their view of others. They build the same stereotypes.

Example

  • “For a girl you are good at climbing” has a rather negative effect on the child’s motivation and self-esteem, as it involves a degrading attitude towards the girl’s possibilities. There is no reason to expect less climbing ability from girls than from boys. Children before puberty do not differ in muscle building and differ in physical performance only if they receive different training.

Tip 2: Be consistent in your assessment

As part of self-reflection, just think what your judgment or behavior would have been if the child had the opposite sex, skin color, or background. If you notice that your actions and feelings are different, consciously correct them. It’s best to talk to someone about it – ideally your partner, since you both should act consistently.

Why?

  • If you think about why your evaluation looks different, you will arrive at a more stereotype-independent evaluation.
  • Not only will you educate children according to the same values and norms, with the same rules and consequences, but you will also be a role model who is keen to break stereotypes.

Example

  • For example, if your son or daughter wants to learn how to knit, imagine how your reaction would be to the opposite sex and choose your universal reaction.
  • Knitting may not sound like the most exciting hobby in the world to everyone, but it trains fine motor skills, patience, endurance and creativity. In fact, it has nothing to do with gender.

Tip 3: No ego

Of course you are always concerned about the well-being of your child, but parents are also humans with their own self-esteem, which is also shaped by the pride in their children. It is worth asking from time to time, to what extent something actually helps the child – in character, abilities and self-esteem and to what extent it rather increases only the self-esteem of the parents.

Why?

  • In order to build a healthy self-esteem, it is important that children receive praise and blame for their achievements, not for the extent to which they serve the ego of other people.

Example

  • Children come to a playground to climb, romp and get muddy. They playfully train muscles, mobility and coordination and also come into contact with other children. Why do many girls wear dresses that get them stuck on the slide and hinder them climbing? Is it perhaps more about the parents and that they get comments how cute the little daughter looks?
  • Why are crying boys unpleasant for fathers when it is very important to learn to deal with one’s own feelings. Is it perhaps less a matter of teaching than it is of displaying their own stereotypical masculinity?

Tip 4: Give benevolent but honest feedback

´No applause for junk´ counts for kids, too. Even if it is difficult to disappoint a child short-term, truth lasts the longest. Especially when children ask for feedback, it should of course be benevolent, empathetic and motivating, but also honest.

Why?

  • A healthy self-esteem is based on a realistic self-image. Praise is just as important as constructive criticism of, which children have to learn to deal with. Only those who recognize their own weaknesses have a chance to work on them.

Example

  • “You drew the house very well, but I don’t recognize the plane. If you draw the wings wider, it becomes clearer.”
  • “But you weren’t the first. Lenia was first at the door”, or “You were first, but we didn’t have a race”.

Tip 5: Train a realistic self-assessment

Ask your child once in a while what it thinks it can do. Then compare the self-assessment with the actual results together.

Why?

  • Studies show that girls tend to underestimate their performance, whereas boys tend to overestimate themselves. Both trends have fatal consequences. Children with inferiority complex do not dare try out new things with the result that they learn less and will actually less skilled. Overestimation prevents children from recognizing their weaknesses and working on them. So they keep themselves from getting better. In addition, they become dependent on feeding their ego beyond their actual competence.

Example

  • “What place do you think you can make?” – “You finished second and not fifth. Why do you think you are better than you thought?”

» more about self-assessment

Tip 6: Find balance between equal treatment and individual development

While values apply equally to everyone, the ideal development for a child differs as much as each child is unique. Knowledge of psychological effects and statistical means serve as anchors to better understand and evaluate your child. The art is to adapt your educational approach to the individual development potential of your child. The most important step is that both parents spend a lot of time with the child and get to know it intensively and talk about their experiences.

Why?

  • If the goal is a certain equality among the children/people, an equal treatment of all would only lead to success if all were already equal at the moment.

Example

  • If you want a sporty and a very thin child to achieve the same performance, the very thin child would need more training. If you treat both children the same, they won´t end up showing the same results.

Tip 7: Appreciate appropriate behavior

Praise appropriate behaviour, especially with girls, and do not consider it normal and leave it unnoticed. In general, give lots of praise and reprimand. That way, the child does not take individual reprimands too seriously.

Why?

  • Because girls are neuronally more mature after birth, they behave on average more appropriately than boys. If parents get used to it and don’t see positive behaviour as anything special, they praise it less. The child’s unadapted behaviour is all the more noticeable and provokes a corresponding negative reaction from the parents. The above-average positive behaviour of the child thus meets more negative feedback than it deserves.

Tip 8: Refer your praise to the competence of the child

In your praise, refer to the child’s competence and thus establish a connection between the positive result and the child’s ability. This rule also applies especially to girls.

Why?

  • Studies show that girls and boys tend to attribute success and failure differently. Girls rather believe they have had success thanks to happy circumstances, while boys see their own competence as the cause. In the case of failure, however, girls quickly suspect their own mistakes as the reason, while boys blame external circumstances here.
  • Because of this effect, the tendency of girls to underestimate and boys to overestimate themselves is not corrected through experience, but reinforced.

Example

  • Instead of “This is a nice boat,” say “This is a nice boat, you can draw very well.”
  • “Great that you got an A! You’re very good at math.”
  • “You won because you are the strongest of your group.”

» more about causal attribution

Tip 9: Avoid permanent warnings

When a child misbehaves continuously, you warn it – and not just once. But the attention that comes with the permanent reprimand can value the behaviour shown and thus bring about the opposite of the actual intention. Try better to reach the goal with a few, efficient rebukes.

Why?

  • Self-esteem depends on feedback from the social environment and is thus closely linked to the position one occupies within a group.
  • Researchers evaluate the distribution of rank within groups of monkeys on the basis of the members’ eye behaviour. A higher position is accompanied by more attention from the group members.
  • Anubis baboons took advantage of this principle to manipulate their rank in the group by generating attention with any means.
  • In humans there is probably also the effect that the arousal of attention is used as an end in itself for increasing one’s own rank and, accordingly, one’s self-esteem.
  • Many rebukes mean a lot of attention and this inadvertently leads to an revaluation of the activity.

Example

  • “I’m gonna count to three. If there’s no quiet, we’re gonna go home right now.”

» more about attention at any cost

Tip 10: Be the role model you want to show

If you want to raise an independent child, be independent. If you want to raise an honest and empathic child, be honest and empathic. Offer your child better alternatives than using stereotypes on your example.

Why?

  • Children are professional observers and learn a lot by model, especially by mum and dad. Sharing tasks fairly in the everyday family life shapes the children’s understanding of their roles.

Example

  • Children identify particularly with the same sex parent. When mum solves problems independently and dad talks about feelings, especially when mum and dad treat each other respectfully, this will be the world your child knows.

Tip 11: Offer a wide range

Children have many needs and abilities that need to be discovered. If you encourage your child to try out many activities, they can discover for themselves what they enjoy and what is easy to them. You also encourage openness to new things. Since stereotypical pre-selection is firmly established in our society, you need to consider conscious interventions.

Why?

  • Finding true strengths and interests is a big step towards a healthy self-esteem. In addition, trying different activities trains identification with and acceptance for them and the associated groups, even if you don’t discover them for yourself.

Example

  • diverse toys, clothes, events, events
  • encouragement to try things out (casually and without evaluation)
  • be a role model and try new things yourself
  • make ´trying something new´ a positive thing; “Great, now you’ve done X. What was it like?

Tip 12: Explain Marketing

Explain to your child that people make money selling products. So they might think more about how to make it attractive to children on the first glance than to make it a good product. Also, show a way to deal with this urge to want something. For example, it makes sense to think about what the child would do with the product once it´s actually home. You can also emphasize that as a parent it is ultimately your job to check whether a product makes sense for your child.

Why?

  • As long as parents buy stereotyped children’s products, companies will manufacture them. Demand determines supply. Children develop their taste according to their environment. Only parents who think for themselves can break the cycle.
  • Children identify with their gender and everything they believe belongs to it. Of course, they don’t understand that the products are created from a marketing point of view and exploit stereotypes that sneak into their lives and become part of their identification and world view.

Example

  • “Do you really like this better, or do you just want it because it looks like it’s for you? What do you do with it when we’re home?”

Encouragement: The first 6 months

  • The last tip we prefer to call incentive. The underlying study is interesting, but also quite old and should be approached with some caution.
  • Maccoby et al. 1984 found that girls and boys react differently to the same behaviour in the first six months.
  • Accordingly, boys who are supported more in the first six months, would explore their surroundings independently six months later and approach strangers in a friendly manner.
  • Girls, on the other hand, should rather be encouraged to become self-employed. Too much support tends to lead to shy behaviour.

The Happy Jona values:

✓ equality   ✓ honesty   ✓ sustainability   ✓ empathy   ✓ respect


And 1 more tip!

Kinder mit Freude am Leben

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