Parents’ Tips for Promoting Self-Esteem

There’s no time like the New Year for a fresh start. Use this time to help your child with learning challenges feel better about himself. Following are simple, common-sense tips from parents of children with LD and ADHD for building self-esteem and encouraging competence.

Give praise for a specific job well done—completing a chore, finishing a homework assignment, participating in a Boy Scout fundraiser.

…But not too much
Kids are aware if you’re making too much fuss, or if what you say doesn’t relate to something worth noting. Hollow praise diminishes the real thing.

Minimize the “participation trophy”
Along the same lines as insincere praise is the high-five for the “participation trophy”—the reward kids are given simply for showing up. Nothing says “average” like a meaningless token that everyone gets. Save your kudos for actual achievements.

Encourage decision-making
Giving a child the power to choose offers a taste of what is involved in making responsible decisions, including living with the consequences. When young, it may be choosing an activity or what to wear; later on, it may involve what courses to take or summer program to attend. Remember that you get to define the options, and few decisions are irreversible.

The process of making her own decision offers your child a much-needed sense of having some control over her life.

Offer a chance to shine
Whether it’s skating or drawing, a consuming interest in frogs, or singing in the school play, make sure your child has opportunities to show off his strengths. Involvement is the key. As long as he’s interacting with a group that shares his interests, it’s okay to be the team manager or the guy that brings down the curtain at the end of the show.

Set achievable goals
For a child who routinely feels defeated by academic challenges, set small, short-term, goals that are achievable. For example, if your child misses 8 of 10 on the weekly spelling test, set a goal for getting 3 correct, and work toward that.

Be the first
Kids gain status with their peers from being the first to see a new movie, go to a special event, show up with the latest fashion accessory or get a hot new gadget. Encourage the willingness to lead rather than follow.

Model good self-esteem
Avoid selling yourself short in front of your child. Instead find opportunities to give yourself a pat on the back when you do something well. Having pride in your achievements may be contagious.

Do NOT underestimate unconditional love
Fundamental to good self-esteem is knowing that you are loved and valued for who are —not what you do (or don’t do). Find ways to consistently communicate that, and the rest is likely to fall into place.