Preschooler insecurities are heart-breaking. We all want—so badly—for our kids to feel good about themselves. “It’s critical to encourage self-confidence in the preschool years,” says Team Esteem founder Jamie Levine, M.S.Ed. “Children with high self-esteem act more independently and are better equipped to handle their emotions in different social settings,” she explains. To make that happen, Levine shares these tips on how to foster confidence.
Arrange play dates. “It’s important to give children the opportunity to get to know their peers outside the school environment,” says Levine. “Play dates offer a chance to be a good friend and host, while exploring the concept of give-and-take. The ability to experience successes across multiple settings helps children feel good about themselves.” Specifically, Levine recommends that parents ask preschool teachers for help finding a good personality match in the classroom—what they have in common, what can they learn from each other. And be sure to preview the play date ahead of time so apprehensive children will know what to expect.
Make mistakes in front of your child. “Kids LOVE when the adults in their lives make purposeful mistakes; it lessens their own anxieties,” explains Levine. If your child is losing confidence in her reading ability, Levine suggests reading a word incorrectly to your child, catching yourself aloud, and then modeling working through the word using reading strategies as a solution. For kids who take losing games a bit too hard, she recommends reminding your child ahead of time that if he loses, there is always the chance to win the next time around—and that trying, not winning, is the reward.
Offer genuine, descriptive praise. Always encourage repetition of positive, confident behavior. For example, if your child is lacking confidence in writing skills but is working hard at it, point out specifically what your child has accomplished: “Wow, I like the way you are holding your pencil, thinking about your letters, and staying focused—you just wrote 5 letters!” Or, “Wow, you even wrote the ‘b’ going in the right direction, you’re really getting better at remembering!” It’s all about instilling pride and encouraging continued positive-esteem behavior.