Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Creating Positive Kids

Tips on Upgrading Your Child's Self-Image

As a parent you obviously play a major role in shaping your children's view of themselves. Here are some tips for helping children create a positive self-image:

Don't say don't. When our kids get frustrated, irritated, want to quit doing their homework, quit the soccer team, it's easy for us as parents to start lecturing - "Don't get so discouraged;" "Don't be a quitter." "You need to change your attitude." While our intentions may be good, the child tunes in to how we sound rather than what we say; instead of feeling encouraged, the child feels scolded. Over time such messages often come inside to become the scolding and criticisms of self-talk of adulthood. Instead of trying to verbally whip our children into shape, it's better to take the time to listen, to empathize with their feelings ("It sounds like you are feeling really frustrated today"), and help them figure out what they can do to solve the problem.

Accent the positive. That being said, it follows that stating the positive is always better than pointing out the negative. Children need to feel supported, need to know from those close to them what they do well, what they seem to enjoy most, where their uniqueness and creativity lie. Again, these positive statements over time are transformed into inner words of encouragement.

Encourage risk taking. No, not hanging off the water tower or playing chicken with cars, but nudging your children to say hello when they feel socially awkward, enticing them to try a new class even though they know nothing about it, persuade them to go out for a sport even though they may wind up spending a lot of time on the bench. Learning at an early age to tackle what's difficult helps them feel less different, helps them develop the strong self-confidence and resiliency to handle other obstacles of adult life.

Resist using your child as a report card for yourself. It's easy to measure our own abilities as a parent by the outcome of our children. If they're successful, we're successful; if they fail in some way, it somehow reflects on us. Thinking this way pushes us to control, shape, make the child what we need him or her to be, to use them to make up for our own inadequacies, missed dreams, uncompleted tasks; we wind up creating the seeds of the problems we're hoping our child will avoid.

Instead of outcome, think process. Think about your job as providing the environment, the love, the guidance, the support your child needs to grow in his or her own way, to discover just who he or she really is. Rather than always looking ahead, trying to orchestrate some distant goal that you feel is important, measure the success of your parenting by your ability to appreciate the moment, the present, the quality of the time spent together here and now.

Be a good role model. If you're able to admit and learn from your mistakes, take risks, expand your own boundaries over the course of your life, you offer your child a model for how it can be done.

The best gift you can give to your child is the best you.

More from Psychology Today

More from Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.

More from Psychology Today