Parents are often very focused on directing their children so that they learn manners, kindness, thoughtfulness, and respect for the adults around them. And these are important lessons to learn. But a piece of the pie that is often missing is showing respect for your young child in order to model respectful behavior and to allow your child to feel a sense of autonomy and to nurture her self esteem.
Think through your interruptions. When you’re on the phone, you teach your child not to interrupt you. When you’re in the middle of an activity, you teach your child to wait. But remember to think about how often you interrupt your child when she is talking. And when she is engaged in an activity, consider allowing her to come to a natural stopping point before insisting that she wash her hands before dinner. This will reinforce the idea that her thoughts, conversations, and activities are important.
Respecting your child’s body. Your child may be an affectionate snugglebug with you at home, but he may not enjoy embraces from strangers, family friends, or even grandparents. Let him know that his body belongs to him, and that it is OK to give a high-five rather than a hug if he prefers. Encourage adults to ask him for a wave “hello” or a fist bump, unless you know that your child enjoys their hugs.
Don’t attempt solve everything. Whether your child is having trouble with a puzzle, can’t quite get their left shoe on, or needs help figuring out how to make their block tower more stable, don’t rush to fix the issue right away. Help them to brainstorm possible solutions, and then work with them to enact those solutions. That will nurture their self-esteem and teach them that they can solve their own problems.
Don’t make comparisons. Each child has unique talents and attributes, and comparing your child to her siblings, friends, or classmates at daycare or preschool is not helpful for a child’s self-esteem or personal growth. Instead, encourage your little one to be the very best she can be and nurture those specific talents, interests, and skills she does have, without allowing the focus to always fall on where she is challenged.
Not every parent will be able to implement these strategies all of the time. Sometimes, a child’s activity must be interrupted, and occasionally, you’ll need to provide a quick fix or focus on a child’s challenges in order to help them. But when you can put these practices into place, you’ll find that they bolster your child’s confidence and teach him a great deal about mutual respect.