Resilience in Children: Building Self-Esteem & Confidence for Navigating the World
One day during my daughter's second grade year, I dropped Fiona off at school and then spent the next 45 minutes crying. She was having a problem with some kids at school, and it was the first time that I truly knew that I couldn’t fix what was making her sad. We had discussed her school issues and I had suggested resolutions. I had alerted her teacher so she knew what was happening in her classroom. I had given pep talks and extra hugs. And yet, a very sad, downtrodden kid got out of my car and walked into school suddenly looking like a tiny fragile being instead of the strong vibrant human that she usually is. And I just sat watching, hoping I had armed her with the lessons and knowledge to figure it out for herself.
I knew this time was coming but it was harder to go through than I thought it would be. Our job as parents is to develop resilience in children, teaching them how to be on their own. They rely on us to equip them with the tools needed to overcome adversity and find happiness. We're responsible for showing them how to be great little people and eventually better adults. But what do they need to know to be successful? Here are some of the ways my husband and I try to prepare our two girls to navigate the world as individuals by building self-esteem and self-confidence.
How to Build Confidence & Self-Esteem in Children
Let them know that love is unconditional in our house.I tell my girls that I love them so many times a day that I now get eye rolls but I don’t care. I tell them that they will do things that I don’t like or that I don’t agree with but I will NEVER stop loving them any less. Even when they are in trouble.
Build self-confidence.From day one I not only told my girls how beautiful they are, but also how strong, smart, funny, kind and helpful they are. I compliment them on their strengths and make them repeat and come up with new strengths they are proud to possess. I don’t tell them that they are perfect because perfection shouldn’t be something to strive for. Instead, I have them say that they are “Perfectly Fiona” or “Perfectly Hannah” because being “Perfectly Yourself” is something you should own, and be very, very proud of.
Teach them to be truthful.I want my girls to be able to tell me and others the truth, always. For my part, I have promised that I won’t get mad as long as they tell the truth – I will only get mad if they lie (which doesn’t mean there won’t be something that will need to be dealt with once the truth is told). Telling their truth isn’t always easy, but declaring it can be powerful.
Foster a sense of humor.
Life isn’t always easy, but being silly and laughing helps immensely. We laugh a lot in our house and we try to teach our girls that sometimes, through humor comes perspective.
In the end, Fiona worked through the challenges with us by her side as her biggest cheerleaders. During this new stage of parenting, I often turn to the excerpt from the below poem and try my best to set my most treasured arrows out to the world as capable, thoughtful and kind people.
"On Children" by Kahlil Gibran (excerpt):
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has since been updated.
I am many things to many people, but my favorite role of all, is as mom to my two girls, ages eight-and-a-half and three. I have pendulum swung between being a work-aholic mom and a stay-at-home mom and am currently trying to find the right balance of both worlds one day at a time. I’m pretty good at not sweating the small stuff and use the quote “Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” from Ralph Waldo Emerson to guide me through life.