Self-esteem is greatly influenced by the significant people in children's lives. Parents, teachers or peers can make a dramatic impact on a child's value of his or her self, and can determine for a long time how that child values himself or herself. There are many opportunities for a parent that are helpful, and just may be able to turn the development of the self-esteem of a child or teenager into a very positive direction.

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What you do to as a parent to help your child depends on many things. The age of your child, his or her personality, your personality, your way of parenting, cultural influences, economic conditions, and many more factors affect the possibilities to enhance the level of self-esteem in your child. Therefore, it is almost impossible to give personalized advice for everyone within the limits of this article.

• Be a positive role model. The way you handle yourself and your affairs is the most important model for your child. Make it a positive one.

• Be careful with your words. Kids are sensitive and might take your careless phrases to be your truth. Do not say things you do not mean.

• Show your love and affection for your child. You do not have to make their ego falsely inflated, but praise and compliment your child as much as possible.

• Provide feedback which is accurate and positive. This is particularly useful when you praise effort. Results are important, but to learn hard work and dedication is probably even more important. Teach your child to give every effort and try as hard as possible.

• Help identify negative thinking patterns and beliefs. Children are not necessarily always right about their evaluations of themselves and their environment. You can help them a great deal by identifying irrational beliefs and help them replace these beliefs with realistic views.

• Create an environment at home which is safe and loving. This speaks for itself! Provide clear rules and boundaries. Have realistic expectations. Encourage age-relevant developmental tasks. Offer your time, and provide support and supervision.
• Allow your child to participate in activities that boost self-esteem. Extra-curricular activities, assignments at home, and various forms of self-expression, like opportunities for athletic or artistic talent, and hobbies give the chance to find and cultivate any form of talent. This is very good for your child's positive self-esteem development.
• Emphasize communication. In many cases, adolescents and their parents feel that they have lost each other, and a world separates them. Do not let this happen. Communicate regularly and appropriately, according to the development of your child.
• Show respect for your child and for his or her identity. Your child is not you! He or she might like different things, or have different priorities. Also, consider age as a factor. Do not treat your 16 year old as a 10 year old. That is insulting and demeaning and will create distance between you.

• Time management is an important and often underestimated skill. Children and adolescents often struggle with the adequate use of their time. Help them to build up the skill of effective time management. ( It might be even useful for you, if you also struggle with it.)

• You can be critical, but be reasonable and just. Be prepared to accept opinions from children, especially from adolescents, who have very concrete opinions about the world. They will have to learn to express themselves appropriately without hurting others. A great model for them is the way you issue your criticism. Take their opinions and feelings seriously.

• Make sure that your child can count on you. Kids are likely to do things that they are probably not be proud of, and would like to forget 10 years later. Your child is your responsibility, even when he did something stupid. You do not have to be happy about it, but you have to support him and be behind him.

• Avoid any comparison with siblings and peers. Each child is different and has his or her own strengths.

• Positive reinforcement and praise can be public, but disagreements and corrections have to be dealt with in private.

• Most importantly: Be There!!!!

This article is taken from the book "Overcoming Self-Esteem Problems in Teens and Pre-Teens: A Parent's Guide," by Dr. Richard L. Travis.

This book is part of a series of books for parents of Teens and Pre-Teens called "Dr. T's Living Well Series," by Dr. Richard L. Travis.

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