Six ways parents can help find a balance between building self-esteem and teaching selflessness.
Lke most parents, you're probably concerned about raising a child will grow up to be kind, well-balanced and able to function independently in the real world. You don't want him to be a doormat, but you certainly don't want him walking around with an entitled attitude and a chip on his shoulder either!
How can you make sure a proper balance is struck? Follow these guidelines:
1. Set a good example.
Talking badly about others in front of your kids — even if no one but your mother or your spouse is around — is sure to send the message that it's acceptable social behavior.
Your kids pay attention more than you think they do; they hear and see EVERYTHING and are looking up to YOU for guidance. Don't be a hypocrite by modeling gossipy behavior and then expect your children not to do the same.
2. Encourage them to be kind and praise them when they do!
It doesn't take much — just a whispered little shove now and again to be considerate of others' needs; you might tell your daughter to see if a child alone on the playground wants to join in the game she's playing, or encourage your son to compliment another child's backpack.
3. A word about compliments, though.
Don't just give your children praise for their appearances. Praise them for their kindness, their talents, and their thoughtfulness. Encourage them to say "thank you" when someone gives them a compliment, and encourage them to freely give compliments to others, as well.
4. Remember that it's your job to teach them right from wrong — nobody else's.
Again remember that they're watching everything you do. Actions, indeed, speak louder than words.
Hold doors open behind you, say "thank you" to your waitress, and help a stranger whenever you can! Be nice to others so they will see you being nice, and be sure to take a moment to explain the impact of your actions to your child whenever you can.
5. Hold them to a higher standard.
When you make excuses for your child by saying something is "just how boys are" or "just how girls are," you are sending the message that these behaviors are acceptable and perhaps even worthy of reward.
Never tolerate your child teasing other children and never forget that behaviors like not inviting the "weird" girl from class to the birthday party or refusing to play with a child who wears the "wrong" clothes can grow into long-standing exclusionary habits.
6. Make sure your child understands the inherent worth of ever single human being — and living creature in general, for that matter.
If he or she knows that EVERYONE is valuable and deserving of kindness — including him or herself — that will contribute to the development of the type of dignity and self-worth necessary to keep your child from becoming a doormat for other children.