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“You look ugly in glasses. I don’t want you to sit next to me anymore.”
Those words still cut deep to the core just as much as the first time I heard them.
Sitting in my small cream-colored desk in the first row of my third-grade class, I fidgeted with the keychain on my backpack acting as if I didn’t hear the hurtful words being directed my way.
“Yeah, she does look ugly. You look like an alien. We don’t want to sit next to aliens,” another girl sitting behind me chimed in.
I could barely make it out the classroom door before the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I walked to the front of the school and told the nurse I was sick and needed my mom to come and pick me up.
The nurse didn’t even bat an eye when she saw my rosy tear-stained cheeks, foggy glasses, and my chest heaving up and down.
“I’ll call her right now, sweetie.”
To this day, my mom still doesn’t know why I was so sick that year. It was all because I felt ugly. Because I was told regularly by my classmates that I was ugly. I was afraid to wear my prescriptive glasses and couldn’t understand why I was the only child in a five-classroom radius who was forced to wear large blocky eyewear on my face.
So, you could imagine how much it touched my heart to discover this book directed at helping children build self-confidence while teaching self-acceptance, and bullying prevention.
“Being small (isn’t so bad after all)” by Lori Orlinsky is one mother’s answer to helping her daughter build self-confidence and a higher self-esteem.
Like myself, the little girl in the book faked being sick, so she didn’t have to go to school.
Her mother senses something else is up and asks her what is wrong.
Her daughter, Haley, hesitantly speaks up about feeling alone being the shortest kid in her class, a situation that “prevents her from reaching the cubbies, light switch, sink, or getting her hands on the ball when playing sports in P.E.”
With thoughtful illustrations and catchy rhymes, the little girl continues to share with her mama all the things she is missing out on because she is unlike everyone else in her class.
Once she is finished explaining to her mother why she can’t – and will not – go to school, Haley’s mother points out many benefits of being small.
After Haley discovers that she can go real low when playing limbo, have more legroom on the airplane and on the couch, and always be front and center in class photos, and more, she learns being tiny is actually a wonderful thing!
It warmed my heart to see the extent this mother went through to instill self-confidence in her young daughter.
“Being small (isn’t so bad after all)” is great because it grants all children an excellent perspective on the power their words truly hold.
Today, it’s a rough time to be a kid.
More than one out of every five students say they’ve been bullied. And, with social media, bullying just keeps getting worse.
Secondly, children are developing anxiety disorders trying to keep up with the pressure to achieve top grades, ace athletics, and so on.
And, if it couldn’t get worse, children suicide rates are climbing.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 19, and recent reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a greater increase in suicide rates among girls than boys.
These are just a few of the many reasons why boosting your child’s self-esteem is so critical.
Here are 7 tips to help build self-confidence in your child today:
1. Show lots of love and affection
The most important way to build self-confidence in your child is to show love. Tell them you love them, show them you love them, and provide love freely without condition. A well-loved child is a confident, happy child. When you have an off-moment and scream at your child, or make some other type of parenting mistake, make sure to hug your child and tell her you’re sorry and you love her. The love you have for your child should know no bounds.
Related: 20 Ways to Make Your Child Feel Loved and Valued
2. Give kudos when kudos are due
When your child builds an amazing Lego house, draws an interesting picture for the side of the fridge, or finishes eating their vegetables at dinner time, praise her! Providing your child with positive feedback helps build her self-confidence in a big way (and, of course, warms her heart). Who is the first person your child typically runs to when they do something they feel proud of? You guessed it, mom and dad!
If your child is not so great at something, be realistic, but tactful. For example, in the book “Being small (isn’t so bad after all)” , when Haley was rattling off all the things she wasn’t good at, such as performing well in sports, her mom didn’t try to convince her otherwise.
She was, however, quick to point out all the other things she excelled at. While Haley may not have been a basketball star, Haley’s mom helped her discover other things about herself that she should be proud of.
3. Help your child establish realistic goals
While it is sweet to hear your young ones say they want to become President of the United States when they grow up, realistically moms, the chances of becoming the President of their HOA or local PTA is a lot more likely. Helping your child set reasonable goals will help them dodge feelings of failure in the future. If the goal is far-fetched, such as becoming the ruler of France, set mini achievable goals like becoming Class President, leader of a club, or another opportunity where they could make a positive impact and still achieve like-minded goals.
4. Practice positive self-talk and self-love
You can’t expect your child to love him or herself when you can’t model the same for yourself. When I moved to Chicago, I got in the habit of going out to eat a lot and enjoying all the fun (foodie) things the city has to offer. As a girl who loves food, I packed on a few pounds.
It wasn’t long before “God, I look fat in this,” and other cutdowns began to spew from my lips.
My stepson Chris started picking up on the comments I’d make about my body, and soon, he was complaining how fat he was and how he couldn’t wear this or that because it “made him look big.”
You can imagine how crummy that made me feel. Look at how my negative self-talk was impacting my young impressionable boy. I felt horrible.
I learned a valuable lesson.
Make sure to model positive behavior by praising yourself when you do well, like when you bake that tasty Parmesan-crusted chicken, win your softball tournament, or capture that promotion. Be sure to talk about the talents and efforts you need to have to achieve these types of accomplishments too.
Heck, shout from the bathroom mirror how freaking amazing you look today! Your kids need to hear this!
5. Help your child work through adversity
Your child won’t always be on the winning team. She won’t always ace that test. Your son might forget his lines for the school play. No one rocks at everything 100% of the time. There will be trips, stumbles, failures, and sorrow.
Teach your child not to give up and to keep their head held high. Soon, your child will learn that making mistakes and failing is just a normal part of life. When those moments occur, remind them that it is okay to feel sad or bummed out. Then, after a little bit, you just gotta do the Taylor Swift and “shake it off” or as my dad would say, “pull up your bootstraps and keep on going.”
6. Encourage independence
Expose your children to new things by setting up safe situations where they can explore and do stuff on their own.
Whether it is helping in the garden, playing freeze tag with friends in the park, helping carry in groceries, or taking an art class, these activities will boost your child’s ability to handle new situations and help build confidence.
In the beginning, try not to nitpick your child’s actions. They’ll tend to get frustrated and just give up. Showing restraint will help build your kiddos confidence for the long haul.
Yes, you may need to stand nearby for supervision if they are tiny tots but try not to be a lawnmower parent.
Related: How to Tell If You’re a Lawnmower Parent (And 5 Ways to Fix it)
7. Respect your child’s interests
We all have our strengths, and when your kiddo finds theirs it’s a wonderful thing. I’m not a big fan of ballet, jazz band, or golf, but if my kiddo rocks at doing fouettés or sinking holes, I’m going to support them every step of the way. As parents, it’s important to respect and encourage your child’s interests—even if it’s not your thing.
If your daughter’s talent is a lead screamer in an 80’s hair metal cover band at school, support her interest. If it’s not interfering with her home and school responsibilities, don the earplugs and let her and her buddies take over the garage one or two nights a week.
We outgrew the 80’s hair metal bands, and maybe she will too. If not, she’ll probably save a spot front and center for you at her first gig and give you a shout out for being “like the coolest mom ever.” Hey, we gotta take any kind of acknowledgment we can, right?
Bottom line, mamas, building your children’s confidence is a must. It doesn’t just happen magically on its own.
A parent’s love, guidance, and dedication, combined with reading such books like “Being small (isn’t so bad after all)”, will help boost your child’s self-esteem, well-being, and sense of self.
Especially, if they have to wear large blocky eyewear or stand on their tippy-toes to reach the bathroom sink.