Toddlers don't have a care in the world, or at least it may seem that way to those of us who have bills and other big responsibilities. But just because your toddler does not have the same stress as you does not mean he or she isn't capable of feeling a little down. Building a toddler's self-esteem is all about patience, understanding and praise. But how do you build self-confidence without making your toddler think he or she is the best creation in the universe? As a veteran mother and former nanny, I've been down this road plenty of times.
Independence is key. This is always my No. 1 method of building self-confidence in toddlers. If they know they can do things for themselves, it helps them feel accomplished. As parents, it can be tempting to do everything for our kids. But remember that each task you do that they are capable of is keeping them from learning and growing. If you want to help, show them how to do it, and then just step back and let them do it. Toddlers can't very well be confident in their abilities if they aren't allowed freedom to practice them.
Redirect instead of scolding, when possible. If toddlers do something wrong, it should be made known. But there is no reason to scold or make them feel bad about it. Simply redirect them to a more appropriate activity. Make sure they know why they are being restricted from a certain action or activity, and praise them for transitioning nicely. Like other methods, this only works if you are consistent. Be sure to redirect your toddler each time he or she takes that specific action. Not being allowed to do it is punishment enough. Scolding can destroy their self-esteem and make them feel worthless. By redirecting, you are teaching the lesson but allowing your toddler to remain confident in his or her abilities.
Notice the good things and make it obvious. Don't just point out the bad behavior. When your toddler is behaving, let him or her know you are impressed. Building a toddler's self-esteem is essential, but you don't want to overdo it. Be careful not to do this for every single good behavior because this can lead to over-inflation of the ego. But pointing out the good things is important. Do it randomly, and make it genuine.
Track goals with a simple chart. When toddlers can visually see something they have achieved, it can be great for the ego. Make a chart of some of the things they are expected to do each day, such as brushing their teeth, reading a book, picking up their toys, making their bed, and more. Use stickers or magnets to mark what has been done each day. When toddlers look at what they have accomplished, their self-esteem will likely rise.
Allow them to make choices. Toddlers need to know they are trusted. This is an essential part of building self-esteem. When you're small, it seems like everyone can do things better than you can. Let your toddler make choices on a regular basis. These can be both big and small choices, but be sure they are things your toddler can handle. For instance, let your toddler choose his or her outfit in the morning. When shopping, give your toddler choices, even if that means his or her entire wardrobe turns out purple, like my daughter's. Building a toddler's self-esteem is all about choice and independence.
The advice in this article was written by an experienced parent, not a licensed mental health professional. Consult an appropriately licensed health professional if your child shows signs of depression or other health issues.
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