Self-esteem is the way a child feels about themselves and the way he or she expects others to feel about them. A child with low self-esteem may be reluctant to take on new challenges and may have trouble interacting with others. Children may also act out more frequently, believing that they are not capable of being “good.” Helping your child develop a positive self-image is crucial to child development and one of the most important tasks you face as a parent. Fortunately, there are several effective games you can play with your child to increase his sense of worth.
The following games are ones that work well with a variety of age ranges. Enjoy these self-esteem building games and activities, and expect the unexpected from your child.
The Beanbag Game:
- On a large piece of poster board, draw a 3-by-3 matrix. In each square, write or draw a picture of an aspect of your child's life. For example, you may include school, chores, relationships with siblings, activities, friends, etc. Include aspects the child may not be aware of, such as creativity or sense of humor.
- Place the poster board on the ground. Give your child a beanbag and have him toss it onto the poster board. For the square that it lands in, he should tell you something good about himself. If it lands in the school square, he may tell you about a subject in which he excels, a test on which he did well, a time that he stood up for himself -- anything that he feels makes him special. If he can't think of anything or gets stuck, it's OK, your turn is coming.
- Next, you toss the beanbag. Tell your child something about him that makes you proud. Many children have learned to focus on what they're doing wrong, instead of what they're doing right. Sometimes, it just takes a gentle reminder that you're proud of them for who they are, not what they do.
The Compliment Game: This game is good to play when you have a group of children, especially if they tend to have a lot of personality conflicts.
- Give each child a piece of paper. Ask him or her to tear the paper into pieces -- one for each child in the group.
- On each piece of paper, he should write name, then list all of the positive characteristics he can think of about. Try to have them focus on personality traits and behaviors, not physical attributes.
- When they have completed their lists, they should put all of them into a box. An adult in the group can read aloud all of the positive comments about each child. The children are usually very surprised at how many great things are said about them.
- If they would like, they can keep their lists in a folder or notebook. Then, when they're feeling a little down about themselves, they can read about how wonderful other people think they are, and this will help when building self-confidence.
The When You Grow Up Game: Good for a group and especially young children. Start this self esteem game by asking the first child what he wants to be when he grows up.
- One example: A fireman! From this point, you say everything positive that you can about the child's choice. Use affirming wording.
“A fireman! Cool! Why such an exciting choice?”
- In asking them why, you can then take their responses and make a positive statement about it. (Remember, the younger the child, the sillier you can be, yet still retain the concept of this game.)
- One may respond that she likes the red fire trucks. You then can say:
“You would make a great fireman because you really love those trucks!”
- With older children, you can work in their individual characteristics, or their strengths, like compassion, or honesty.
- Give each child his chance.
Picturing Self-Esteem: This is something that can be tailored for children of all ages and is good for a group.
- Ask them to draw a picture of what they think self-esteem looks like or feels like.
- Encourage them to be as simple or complex as they want and set an agreed-upon time for them to do their drawing.
- When all the children are done, each one can discuss his or her own work with the others in the group.
Other Self-Esteem Building Activities: Here are some other steps to follow in building your child's self-esteem:
- Remind your child frequently that you love him unconditionally.
- Model a positive self-image. Don't criticize yourself or others when he is present.
- Let him participate in activities where he can excel.
- If he is struggling with a task, provide him with the resources to master it.
- Teach him that perfection is not a realistic goal, but improvement is.
- Teach him that failure is inevitable, but he is strong enough to handle it.
- Provide him with lots of new experiences so he gains confidence in his ability to face them.
Don't underestimate the power of a simple, honest compliment. Self-esteem begins to develop at a very early age. By getting your child off to the best possible start with these confidence boosters and activities, you give him a gift that he can carry with him for the rest of his life.