Building your kids' self-esteem is a core component of bullying prevention. With a healthy self-esteem, your children will not only be more confident, but they also will be able to identify their strengths – and their weaknesses – and still feel good about themselves. A healthy self-esteem also helps protect kids if a bully does target them. And it may even keep some bullies at bay.
Kids who bully others are looking for someone who will react to their hurtful words or actions. As a result, bullies target kids who aren't confident or assertive. But if your child shrugs off a bully's verbal attack, makes light of it or simply shows no emotional reaction, the bully will be less likely to try again.
Fostering a healthy self-esteem in your kids has other benefits too. For instance, a solid self-esteem protects kids from the pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships and dating abuse. Here are some ideas on how to build self-esteem in your kids.
Spend time with your kids. When you spend time with your kids, you are communicating that they are important and that they matter, which goes a long way in developing self-esteem. Additionally, spending time together allows you to build a solid relationship with your kids. That foundation becomes extremely important as they enter the teen years and face more and more challenges.
Get your children involved in activities that boost their confidence. When kids have areas in their life where they feel confident, this attitude will carry over into other areas of life, reducing the likelihood that they will be bullied. Any enjoyable activity where your child excels will build confidence. So help your children draw on their strengths and find something they enjoy.
Allow your children the opportunity to experience disappointment and to make mistakes. Encourage your kids to take reasonable risks and try not to shelter them or rescue them from life's setbacks. The goal is to allow kids to experience setbacks and disappointments without feeling a sense of failure. Instead, teach them how to learn from situations and move on. Doing so will go a long way in developing resiliency in your kids.
Show your children unconditional love. Don't be afraid to tell your children that you are proud of them. This is not the same thing as "pumping up their egos." Instead, stress that perfection is not important but hard work and effort is. Kids who see themselves as adequate, competent and loved will not feel threatened by the differences or successes of others.
Encourage your kids to volunteer their time. It can be very rewarding and fulfilling for children to volunteer in some way. Whether it's cleaning up a local park, packing groceries at a food pantry or taking cookies to the elderly, volunteering helps them feel like they are part of something important. Additionally, it teaches them compassion for those less fortunate.
Acknowledge your child's good behaviors and accomplishments. Many times, parents fall into the trap of correcting bad behavior and choices and then forgetting to acknowledge the good things their children do. Kids won't believe in themselves and their abilities unless they receive positive reinforcement when they do something right. Also, pointing out the positives helps your child see the world in a more positive light. If you focus only on the negative, then your kids will tend to focus or dwell on the negatives in the world around them.
Demonstrate that you believe in your child's competency. Start by assigning basic tasks, responsibilities and chores. Avoid jumping in and taking over because your child didn't do it exactly how you thought it should be done. The same goes for homework. Instead of doing math problems for your kids or typing their papers, provide some instruction or ideas on how they can do it. Allow them to complete the task on their own. When you allow them to work through something on their own – no matter how difficult – you are confirming your belief in their capabilities. Over time, they will learn to believe in their capabilities too.
Don't limit your positive comments to just academics or sports. Be sure to give positive reinforcement for other types of behaviors such as generosity, cooperation, leadership skills, taking responsibility and courage.
Teach your kids how to be assertive, but not aggressive. Many kids are not naturally assertive. They need to be taught that it's alright to stand up for themselves. It's also important to teach them the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Explain that aggressive kids try to force other people to think like them or play their way. Meanwhile, assertive kids are respectful of other people's differences and ideas but aren't afraid to stand up for themselves. Assertive kids also feel comfortable defending themselves when someone says or does something hurtful.
Explain to your kids that knowing how to say "no" is healthy. Your children should feel they have the right to say no to a request that makes them uncomfortable, even if that person is an adult. The key is to teach your kids how to say no respectfully. For instance, if your son doesn't want to attend a certain party, he should feel comfortable enough to say "Maybe next time." And if your daughter doesn't feel like going shopping with a group of girls, she should feel comfortable enough to say, "No thank you."