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How Parents Can Nurture Self-Esteem

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Self-esteem develops over time.

And if it's low, it can be raised. Here are things parents can do:

Help your child learn to do things. At every age, there are new things for kids to learn. Martial Arts is one of the best sports you can enroll your child because they will be learning all the time while having fun. Learning basics, the proper way to exercise, traditional martial arts kata and self defense are all skills that increase competence. Competence increased confidence and self esteem.

When coaching kids how to do things, show and help them at first. Then let them do what they can, even if they make mistakes. Be sure your child has lots of opportunities to learn, try, and feel proud. Don't make new challenges too easy — or too hard. Holding pads too high for them to reach may seem funny but can also lead them to believe that they are not talented.

Praise your child, but do it wisely. Of course, it's good to praise kids. Your praise is a way to show that you are proud, too. But research shows that some ways of praising kids can actually backfire. At our martial arts school we use a technique called a praise sandwich. We praise effort, make a correction and the praise improvement after the child practices more.

Here's how to do it right:

Avoid over-praising. Praise that doesn't feel earned doesn't ring true. For example, telling a child he kicked almost straight up when he knows he didn't feels hollow and fake. It's better to say, "I know that was a tough class, but we all have off days. I'm proud of you for not giving up." Add a vote of confidence, "Tomorrow, you'll be back on your game."

Praise effort rather than fixed qualities. Avoid focusing praise on results such as doing the best in class or fixed qualities (such as being smart or athletic). This kind of praise can lead kids to avoid challenges that may threaten the good 'reputation' they get praised for most.

Instead, offer most of your praise for effort, progress, and attitude. For example: "You're working hard on that split," or, "You're getting better and better at these combinations," or, "I'm proud of you for practicing and going to classes — you've really stuck with it. This kind of praise encourages kids to put effort into things, work toward goals, and try. When kids do that, they are more likely to succeed.

Be a good role model. When you put effort into everyday tasks (like raking the leaves, making a meal, cleaning up the dishes, or washing the car), you're setting a good example. Your child learns to put effort into doing homework, cleaning up toys, or doing great stances.

Modeling the right attitude counts, too. If you train in martial arts along with your child, get excited about the classes (or at least without grumbling or complaining), you teach your child to do the same.

Ban harsh criticism. The messages kids hear about themselves from others easily translate into how they feel about themselves. Harsh words ("You're so lazy!") are harmful, not motivating. When kids absorb negative messages about themselves, they feel bad about themselves, and act accordingly.

Focus on strengths. Pay attention to what your child does well and enjoys. Make sure your child has opportunities to develop these strengths. Nurturing strengths is better than focusing on weaknesses if you want to help kids feel good about themselves and succeed. All students progress at different rates at different point in their martial arts journey. It’s not a belt race it’s all about becoming a black belt over time not “getting” a black belt

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