Admittedly, when I read that one of the 40 Developmental Assets was Self-Esteem, I sort of rolled my eyes. It feels so 90’s. Everyone gets a participation trophy and told how wonderful they are. Then, we all pat ourselves on the back, say “Good job,” and go home knowing what a difference we made.
And yet, I know it’s more complicated than that.
Self-Esteem has been vexing the mental health field for as long as the field has existed. And for every expert you find that says it’s the end all be all, you’ll find another one who totally disagrees.
So what does that mean for Asset Building?
As Asset Builders the best things we can do to boost healthy Self-Esteem are:
- Foster close relationships that create a sense of belonging. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything your child does or handling every tantrum like a champ. Just that most of the time you attune to them, let them know you’ll be there and love them no matter what, and acknowledge when you get those things wrong.
- Give specific praise when you do give praise. Especially since lavish, continual praise actually undermines the development of self-esteem. Instead of “Good job!” reflect their feelings, make observations, ask questions, or don’t say anything at all-kids know when they do well and don’t always need us going on about it. For example: Replace “Nice job getting an A on that test!” with “Way to work hard!”
- Pay attention to what you model. Kids learn more by what you do, not what you say. So model a healthy sense of self, resilience, effective problem-solving, and a growth mindset.
- Have a growth mindset. Which just means instead of always focusing on the outcome, notice the process. The hard work that goes into making a good grade. The effort to learn a skill or try a new thing, even if the final product flops. Take risks, try things, and let your kids make mistakes.
For a even deeper dive into Self-Esteem check out this article, What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains. And check our Facebook, @tetonvalleyyouth, for other Asset Building tips.
If you do a good job raising our kids’ self-esteem or know someone who does, let us know!