How do we nurture our children’s self esteem?

Every now and then I have one of those I-hope-I’m-getting-it-right moments. I had one of them last night in the kitchen, chatting with Laurence about awkward conversations I’ve had about home education recently. Home ed is an easy concern trigger for me because it’s so blatantly alternative. Yet I wander down this hole when thinking about a lot of my day-to-day decisions when it comes to my children, knowing there’s no sign from the sky with a clear answer.

“I’m not worried about their education,” he answered. I waited for some form of “I believe in you, babe” call to positive thinking but instead he gave me this reminder that we pass to each other every now and then: “As long as they know they’re loved, as long as they love others, as long as they do good in the world – that’s what it’s about.”

The work of parenting involves a whole lot of confidence building so they have the tools to realise all those things. Where do we get started with that mammoth task? I was asked to share how we nurture our children’s self esteem as part of Families’ #LoveYourselfProject and it’s struck me that no simple to do list works here. It’s the sum of so many of our own little attitude shifts, so many little actions along the way.

It’s less about about telling them they’re beautiful and more about refusing to complain about our own perceived physical flaws. It’s less about praising their intelligence and more about listening to their stories, showing them that you value what they say.

I don’t go in for much praise. Personally, a lot of praise made me worry about my performance growing up, accomplishing the opposite of what it was intended to do. I was told I was so bright. In response, I felt I must not fail.

Confidence building answers deep questions that live inside all of us: “Am I safe? Am I loved? Do I matter?” Our role is to answer our children’s questions with actions that say: “You are safe – you can trust me. You are loved – there are no conditions on my love. You matter – I respect you.”

The questions are asked over and over again from birth onwards, and they will be answered, one way or another. If our own store of positive thinking is running low, it will be difficult to find the resources to adequately answer them the many times a day they’re asked.

Certainly I’m in a place right now where I realise that I must address my own hurts, my own past and grab hold of the answers to my own questions (“I am safe. I am loved. I do matter.”) so that I have energy for even basic parenting, let alone to model the confidence and freedom I want my children to grow up knowing.

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  • That’s all such good advice. My youngest is going through a horrid anxious teenage stage at the moment, and I want to make her BETTER, but all I can do is make sure she knows that I love her and am there for her.

  • This line especially – Our role is to answer our children’s questions with actions that say: “You are safe – you can trust me. You are loved – there are no conditions on my love. You matter – I respect you.”
    Such good advice. Sometimes parenting and bringing them up utterly overwhelms me I must admit, but we can only hope we are doing a good job. x

  • This is such a beautiful post. It really is simple, isn’t it? Just love them. I both admire and envy you home educating – I didn’t have the energy or patience for it but preserving my daughter’s self-esteem now she’s in the school system is proving hard. Thank you for reminding me what it’s all about.

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