Kids (4-12)

Attitude: Instilling a Can-Do Attitude in Your Children


Why You Should be Concerned:

If your child is lacking a can-do attitude, they may have or may develop low self-esteem. Self-esteem patterns are formed very early in life. As a child tries, fails, tries again, fails more, and then succeeds, he is developing ideas about his capabilities. The child is also adding to his self-concept by observing and interacting with his peers.

Tony Dungy wrote a children’s book entitled You Can Do It!.  In the book, Tony’s younger brother becomes discouraged and acts out a little in school because he is frustrated by what he sees as his lack of ability. He just doesn’t know what his “it” (or talent) is. But he can easily see what his big brother Tony’s, talent is – football. This is a great example of how young children can develop low self-esteem and how, with the help of a supportive adult and some encouragement, low self-esteem can be eliminated.

How Do Children Develop Low Self-Esteem?

Two things that profoundly affect self-esteem are how others see or treat us, and how we see ourselves. Today, how we see others and ourselves is often impacted by insignificant and material things. Many children become overly focused on looks, popularity, athletic ability, and possessions such as electronics and clothes. Competition regarding these things can leave children feeling deficient in more than one aspect.

Know Your Child:

Some children are naturally more confident than others and for these children, an occasional put-down is not going to damage their self-esteem. But for more sensitive children, it may. At an early age, you can begin to identify whether your child is sensitive or not by watching their reactions to situations. A young, sensitive child will usually show it by crying or becoming sad when hurt. An exception to this would be

children who are perfectionists. These children may not want to show that there is anything wrong and try to hide their feelings.

Know the Signs of Low Self-Esteem:

A child who has low self-esteem will often speak negatively about themselves and say things such as “I can’t do anything right,” “I’m ugly,” “I’m stupid,” or “Nobody likes me.” They may be overly critical of and easily disappointed in themselves. Children with low self-esteem may have a low tolerance for frustration and see temporary setbacks as permanent. These children are predominantly pessimistic.

What You Can Do:

Be your child’s #1 source of encouragement! Praise your child every day. As moms, we can often be focused on catching our children when they do something wrong. Instead, focus on catching your child when they are trying to do something right. The emphasis here is on the word “trying”. Praise your child for their efforts, not just their accomplishments. If your child studies hard for a test and still makes a C, tell them you are proud of them for trying. Then tell them you have confidence in them and encourage them to try again.

Set the tone for your home and family. If you are critical of yourself, your child may be learning from you. Be a good role model by having healthy self-esteem. Then make sure the entire family does not contribute to damaging each other’s self-esteem. Have a zero tolerance policy for sarcasm and casual put-downs between siblings and between you and your spouse. Teach your children how to be courteous and sensitive to the feelings of others.

Show your child often that you love them. Physically demonstrating your love to your child will boost their self-esteem. Hug your child daily. Write them notes of encouragement. Praise them often. If you feel you need a heart-to-heart jump start with your child, take a look at the free Pillow Talk questions in the iMOM Espresso Minute daily email.

Develop a Plan if You Think Your Child Has Low Self-Esteem:

If you have made efforts to personally boost your child’s self-esteem and feel that your child needs more reinforcement, try the following:

1. Ask your child’s teachers and coaches to assist you in encouraging your child.

2. Ask your extended family to assist you in encouraging your child. Enlist grandparents or aunts and uncles to spend time with your

child regularly. Starting a hobby with a relative is a great non-competitive confidence booster.

3. Look for extracurricular activities that would build your child’s confidence. The YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts

and Boy Scouts and church youth groups have inexpensive programs that nurture self-esteem.

4. Seek professional help. School guidance counselors and your pediatrician should be able to assist you in getting help for your child.

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