For many years people generally agreed that building up self-esteem in kids was a worthwhile pursuit that lead to positive child development. In fact, I don’t ever remember a time during my career where positive reinforcement, verbal praise, and general encouragement were seen as potentially dangerous on any level. Today, however, some critics argue that artificially boosting self-esteem is a bad thing, and reinforcing young athletes with participation trophies and ribbons can lead to future lethargy when these kids become adults.
Building self-esteem in kids is one of the biggest and most important jobs we have as adults. This does not mean kids should receive smiles and high-fives all day long for simply existing, but it does suggest that genuinely building up self-esteem in kids by “catching” them giving their best effort is a worthwhile pursuit for every parent and coach. Being part of a sports team can help kids make new friends, support teammates, and feel a sense of pride for team and individual accomplishments — all experiences that can help with over all development and mental health.
Feel good, do good
Studies show that when we feel good about ourselves, we upwardly adjust our behaviors and our mental health improves accordingly. For example, if you feel good about your appearance, you are far more likely to keep up with your hygiene, dress nicely, and carry yourself with an heir of dignity and respect. Conversely, people who don’t have much self-esteem tend to do the opposite — they don’t spend much time taking care of themselves, and their efforts are generally poor, too.
With kids, it is even more important to find ways to keep their spirits high as the habits they develop at an early age may very likely stay with them for the rest of their lives. Regularly telling a kid “great job!” after an accomplishment will not eventually turn him into a lazy adult, nor will it cause any psychological damage — in fact, often the opposite occurs.
Sports provides countless opportunities for self-esteem development
There are endless ways to help a kid boost his or her self-esteem in sports, including praising effort, sportsmanship, and of course, their accomplishments on the field. Your smile, energy, and body language are important ways to positively infect a kid with confidence and improved self-esteem. The best part about this? There’s no wrong way to tell a kid “great job!” Look for ways to reward effort, even if the results still lag as it is consistent, ongoing effort that will eventually lead to desired results — and improved self-esteem.
Schools can boost self-esteem, too
No, schools today haven’t missed the mark by placing a greater emphasis on building kids up by making concerted efforts to improve self-esteem. Kids who feel better about themselves are less likely to bully, use drugs and alcohol, and drop out of school. If you happen to live in an area where the school and sports leagues both emphasize building self-esteem, you are providing your kids the best opportunities to maximize their personal happiness, health, and productivity.
While it is true that adults can sometimes go overboard by offering kids so much praise and attention that it becomes artificial, that is the exception, not the rule. In the vast majority of cases the efforts we make to help build self-esteem in kids will only yield good, positive, healthy results, making our efforts even that much more worthwhile.
Improving self-esteem can be a challenging endeavor, but it’s important that we help kids find ways to feel better about themselves and what they are capable of achieving in life. Sports provide a terrific opportunity to help kids grow psychologically and improve their mental health, but this only occurs by having dedicated, responsible adults guide the sport experience. Set aside the booing and jeering and instead make it a point to promote a healthy attitude, display positive body language, and voice your support as much as you can at your child’s next game.
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