Given the many images and messages we receive, whether through advertising or social media, about the “perfect” life, it can be a challenge to feel confident about what we have, who we are, what we look like and what we are doing.
This is even more difficult for children, whose self-image is ever-evolving and whose ability to withstand peer pressure is even thinner than our own.
But there is something we can do about it.
Children learn so much from their parents: how to express themselves (as any parent knows when their child drops the f-bomb for the first time), problem-solving, coping with and learning from mistakes, as well as self-esteem. This is why it is so important for a child’s first teacher (its parent) to lead by example.
If you want your children to have good self-esteem, teach them good habits. If you want to teach your children good habits, you will have to lead the way.
Lead by example
Not only is it important to demonstrate good self-control around substances, screens and things like chocolate cake, it is important to demonstrate a drive towards health. Move often, showing your children you enjoy exercise. Invite your children to move with you. Doing something together is the best way to make an exercise an experience. Bike rides and gardening, yoga and push-ups, all can be a great way to spend time together.
Try new things
Whether it’s a new sport, activity or instrument or idea, encourage your children to be adventurous and curious. This does not mean they need to face every fear and try skydiving. But showing them there is enjoyment in trying something at least once can make them feel brave, strong, and interesting. Imagine what their friends will think when they report back they ate fiddleheads or fish-eyes, engaged in a drum ceremony and discovered their spirit animal. Connecting with others is often done by sharing fun and interesting things about ourselves.
Walk the walk
Get into the habit of focusing on what is important in life: character, values, and effort. No one wins when someone is too self-critical. Show your children that you can make a mistake and be okay with it. Mess up a drawing, spill some milk, rip a hole into a pair of jeans and verbalize something akin to: “Oh well, no one is perfect. I guess I’ll just have to fix this.”
Show them you can make a mistake and apologize. Making amends is an important skill in life. The sooner we learn to admit fault and correct our behavior, the sooner we will make real progress in life.
This will teach them that there are many do-overs in life, so why sweat the small stuff.