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Investing in Your Child's Self-esteem

by Tiffany Stuart

Advisors tell parents it's wise to invest in the financial future of their children. True, a college savings fund is a great asset, but a superior contribution is to invest in a child's self-esteem bank.

As parents, we know one of our goals is to raise self-confident children. But how can it be done? To begin, equip yourself by reading articles and books on developing your child's self-esteem. The more you know, the more your kids will grow!

Here are some additional practical ways to invest in your child's emotional well-being.

Give thanks. One meaningful way my husband and I invest in our children is by using what I call "thankful journals." We spend twenty minutes a week with our nine-year-old and thirteen-year-old recording five to ten things that make us grateful. Then, Derek and I write two things about them that we appreciate, such as: "I am thankful for Justin's sensitivity to the disabled." Or, "I am thankful for Hannah's passion for dance." Through this easy exercise, our children are growing in gratitude and confidence.

Why not try it? In only a year, your child will hear 52 reasons why she's special. If she can't write yet, ask her what she's thankful for and log her responses.

Give time. Children need quality time. Younger children like to read a story and cuddle before bed. My nine-year-old feels honored when we play a board game together or eat enchiladas at her favorite restaurant. My teenage son loves it when we watch his favorite TV show or when he and his dad play basketball.

My kids need my time, and they need it consistently. In the same way that I go to work or attend a weekly business meeting, I block out regular time on my calendar for them.

Award positive words. When parents model positive self-talk, our children learn to have faith in themselves, too. I say things like, "I'm good at math; let me see what problem you're working on." Or, "Mom likes playing in the dirt and planting flowers. What do you like?"

If parents put themselves down, their children will also form a negative self-perception. In the same way that a bank gives us a quarterly dividend, which is a financial pat on the back, we can give our children a verbal pat on the back by monitoring our words.

Listen. Children need to be heard—and it's our job to listen. Sometimes this means getting on their level and looking them in the eye. Expressing concern about their scraped knee or their ripped teddy bear makes them feel important. It just takes a little extra effort.

Tell your story. When your children feel afraid, sad or frustrated, you can comfort them by sharing your life experiences through a story. Kids need reassurance that what they are going through is normal and when they know you've been there, it can help calm their fears.

Recently Hannah was nervous about entering a school talent show with a friend. To encourage her, I took the opportunity to share about an experience I had singing when I was her age. When I told her that all I could do was laugh through the entire song, she giggled and relief washed over her face. Later that day, when I overheard her sharing my story with her neighborhood friends, I knew my story had a powerful impact.

A little encouragement goes a long way. Today, a penny doesn't seem like much, but they add up. I once heard about a girl who collected these "worthless" pieces of copper to honor a loved one. The results were more than anyone expected—she donated thousands of dollars to a ministry.

In the same way, each small investment you make into your child's self-esteem bank may not seem like it's helping, but over time, you can help your child grow rich in self-worth.