Helping Your Kids Build Confidence and Self-Esteem

Helping Your Kids Build Confidence and Self-EsteemTime and again parents share with me their concerns over their child’s lack of confidence and self-esteem in school. They intuitively understand that grades and confidence often walk hand-in-hand. Confidence among children seems to be such a fleeting emotion. A young student can start the day feeling that all is right with the world but come home feeling like an utter failure. The challenge for parents is to help their kids move past the “emotion” of confidence and, instead, understand that confidence is more than a feeling—it’s a mindset.

While there are many factors that can contribute to a young student’s level of confidence, here are three approaches or “mindsets” that, followed consistently, can go a long way in building your child’s academic confidence and self-esteem.

Actions vs. Words

As kids grow older, they begin to recognize the difference between words and actions. For example, if you tell your child that you believe she can accomplish a certain goal, but the end result is failure, your words will ring hallow.

The challenge is to not simply tell your kids that you believe they can succeed at something. Tell them they can succeed, but explain what they’ll have to do in order to be successful. From there, come alongside your child and “get your hands dirty.” In other words, be careful not to do the task for your son or daughter, but be there to teach, model and assist.

Cause and Effect

In school, many struggling students often don’t recognize, or ignore, the connection between effort, organization and good grades. The truth is, most students who struggle on tests rarely study for them. Yet, these same kids would insist that they are simply not able to achieve a better grade because they’ve bought into the myth that ability is the sole requirement for academic success.

It’s important for parents to help their children understand cause and effect. For example, not studying equals poor test results. If a child continues to be convinced that she lacks the intelligence or ability to succeed in school while never understanding the true causes, her self-confidence will only continue to plunge. It’s important, as parents, to debunk this myth.

Real Challenges

Some parents and teachers, in an effort to inspire a child’s confidence through success, will assign tasks that fall well short of a child’s ability. The problem is not with the intent but it’s with the approach. Sooner or later, a child will recognize that she is being given assignments or tasks that are anything but challenging. In turn, a student will likely perceive this as confirmation of her lack of ability or intelligence.

Don’t be afraid to give your child a real challenge, even if there is the possibility of failure. However, it is just as important that you make your son or daughter realize that you believe that he or she can be successful, but only with some real effort. As always, work with your child to teach the tools necessary for success. The feeling a child gains from accomplishing challenging tasks, and being recognized for them, is like nothing else.
Remember: Measure success in small increments and build upon each step with meaningful encouragement. With time, effort and patience, a child can gain the type of confidence that isn’t fragile or fleeting and has the potential to propel her to great things.
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Sibling Warfare? Stay Neutral

Your Family Today: Parenting

By Lisa Lombardi for Your Family Today

When your kids practically come to blows over which one got more cream cheese on their bagel, you know you’ve got a serious case of sibling rivalry. It’s likely you also know that there’s no avoiding it. “The only way to prevent sibling rivalry is to only have one child or to space kids 18 years apart,” says John Rosemond, author of The New! Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children (Andrews McMeel Publishing). But while you may not be able to keep the peace between your kids, there are things you can do to squash the squabbling.

Be Switzerland Resist the urge to rush in, because “when you intervene, you’re likely to identify one child as the villain and one as the victim,” says Rosemond. The obvious problem: It takes two to squabble, and you may be unfairly maligning one kid. The not-so-obvious problem: You’re creating a dynamic that will quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If that victim gets attention for being a victim, he’s going to continue to elicit that villain behavior from his brother or sister,” Rosemond says. Instead, let them work out squabbles themselves. (Note: If your younger child is 3-years-old or under or you sense either child is in physical danger, by all means play ref.)

Don’t compare siblings to each another You probably know not to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” But it’s a common mistake to compare kids in even more subtle ways: “Julie, look at how nicely your brother is playing with those puzzles.” It’s fine to praise one child’s unique skills; just make sure you don’t have a hidden agenda — like getting Julie to stop hurling puzzle pieces across the room.

Be a supermodel You and your spouse provide a powerful example of how two family members should speak to each other. “If the kids see you arguing and calling each other names, it’s hard to get across the message ‘We don’t do that in this family,’”says Rosemond. So play nice with your spouse, and who knows? You just might hear less bickering from the playroom.

Give each kid space You know the famous line by Robert Frost about how fences make good neighbors? Well, imaginary lines (in the car, in a shared bedroom and so on) make good siblings. To avoid turf wars, “the ideal situation is for each child to have his own clearly defined space,” says Rosemond. If you can’t spare a bedroom, give each child his own desk or toy chest in the communal space.

Don’t insist on shared playdates Sure, it would be easy if your 7-year-old could take your 4-year-old under her wing whenever she has a pal over. But asking older kids to always include younger ones on playdates and fun outings can create serious resentment. Giving older kids private time with their friends will make them more likely to play nicely with their siblings when nobody else is around.

Battling Over Bedtimes? Not Anymore

Your Family Today: Parenting

By Elizabeth Hurchalla for Your Family Today

When it’s time to brush their teeth and go to bed, many kids go into meltdown mode. They refuse to put on pajamas, plead for “just one more story” and get up at least 10 times after they’re put to bed. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of American children experience frequent sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep, stalling for later bedtimes and resisting going to bed. But just because this is a common problem doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Follow these steps for combating bedtime bummers and put more ease into your z’s.

Commit to a bedtime ritual “Kids thrive on routine,” says Patrick Friman, Ph.D., author of Good Night, Sweet Dreams, I Love You: Now Get Into Bed and Go to Sleep! (Boys Town Press). “If they know that every night they will be brushing their teeth, putting on pajamas and going to sleep at a certain time, they will grow to expect that and will be more willing to go along with the program.”

Offer choices “When I let my 3-year-old pick out his own pajamas or decide what book we’ll read before bed, he is much less resistant to turning in for the night,” says Jamie Maxwell of St. Louis. Making decisions empowers kids and makes them feel like they have a say in what’s happening to them.

Give a warm bath “A quiet, relaxing bath will help make kids sleepy — especially when you use lavender aromatherapy soap, known for its relaxation benefits,” says Rachel Franklin, M.D., a family practitioner in Oklahoma City and author of Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor’s Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy (St. Martin’s Griffin). Science backs her up: When we fall asleep, our body temperature naturally falls. The same thing happens after you get out of a hot bath. When your temperature drops back down, it makes your body think it’s time for sleep.

Note: The relaxing effects of putting kids in a warm bath before bed go flying right out the window if you fill up the tub with toys. So try your best to keep it low-key.

Play soothing music “Every night, I play my 5-year-old daughter classical music while I rub her back,” says Traci Coleman of Oklahoma City. “It is very relaxing, and never fails to put her to sleep within 10 minutes.” Other soothing CDs feature the sounds of ocean waves, raindrops or birdsongs.

Serve warm milk Milk relaxes children because it includes tryptophan, which induces drowsiness. For best results, give your kids milk one hour before bed. (Just make sure they use the toilet one last time!)

Back up bedtime “If you put children to bed 30 minutes earlier, many kids will actually sleep later in the morning,” says Dr. Friman. “That’s because they’ll go into a deeper sleep and sleep more soundly. For kids, early to bed does not mean early to rise!”

Lunch Box Do’s and Don’ts

Your Family Today: Health

By Nancy Kalish for Your Family Today

A lunch box filled with fun, healthy food not only makes kids happy: It also helps them perform better academically. But if you’re not careful, you could be packing food poisoning along with that tuna sandwich, says Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and mother of two. Follow these simple rules to make sure your child’s lunch box makes the grade:

Don’t start with a dirty lunch box “Even a small food spill can be a bacteria magnet,” says Thayer. So give the lunch box a good scrub with hot, soapy water and dry it thoroughly. A little baking soda can get rid of any lingering food odors in lunch boxes or insulated bottles. In addition, stash a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the lunch box so kids can clean their hands before eating.

Do think before you pack Whenever possible, pick foods that have little chance of spoiling. Good choices include crackers; uncut fresh, dried or canned fruit in juice; whole veggies; hard cheeses; canned meat and fish; and individual puddings with pop-top lids. Many kids crave prepackaged lunches with individual compartments, but Thayer says these meal choices tend to be high in salt and fat. Instead, she suggests making your own healthier version. “In a reusable container with separate compartments, pack whole-grain crackers, squares of cheese and/or turkey, and a little treat.” Hard-boiled eggs, tuna salad or yogurt are also healthy options, says Thayer — but only if they can be kept cold in the fridge or with an ice pack (see below) until eaten. The best choice of all: PB&J — it’s nonperishable, nutritious and a perennial kid fave.

Don’t forget to chill Place all lunch ingredients and the lunch box itself — a soft-sided, insulated one is best — in the fridge the night before. “The cooler the food starts out, the cooler it will stay,” says Thayer. Pre-chill an insulated bottle with ice water before filling with juice or another beverage. Believe it or not, you can also freeze a sandwich made from peanut butter, cheese or meat the night before. (Don’t try this with fillings made with mayonnaise, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes or other raw veggies.) You can even make a whole week’s worth of sandwiches ahead of time and stick them in the freezer. Your child’s sandwich will keep the rest of the food cool and thaw by lunchtime. Alternatively, throw in a frozen juice box or water bottle, which will act as an ice pack. You might even consider sandwiching the sandwich between a frozen juice box and an ice pack. Keep several in the freezer so they’re always ready.

Don’t let hot foods get cool To avoid food poisoning, soups and other hot foods should still be at 140 degrees when served. Thayer suggests you fill an insulated stainless steel container made for hot foods with extremely hot water, let it sit for a few minutes, spill out and immediately fill with hot food. Then keep the container tightly closed until lunchtime.

Do tell kids to toss it If you’re packing perishables, make sure your child knows that if the food isn’t cold when he opens his lunchbox, he shouldn’t eat it, says Thayer. In addition, direct him to throw out all leftovers when lunch is over: You don’t want your child eating a spoiled sandwich on the bus home. And no matter how tempted you are to economize, never reuse any foil, plastic wrap, or paper and plastic bags, which could be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

5 Ways to Show a Friend You Care

Beauty & Confidence: Mind & Wellness

By Sharon Liao for Beauty & Confidence

You can’t imagine life without your friends. They share in your happiness, lift you up you when you’re down and make every day more joyful. But that’s not all: They also help you stay healthy. According to Australian researchers, people with more good pals lived 22 percent longer than those with few friends.

But with our increasing busy lives, many of us are falling out of touch and letting these close bonds unravel. Case in point: Over the past three decades, the number of people the average American calls a close friend has shrunk by a third, reveals a Duke University study.

To keep your relationships stronger than ever, it’s important to take time to remind your friends how much they mean to you. Consider one of these suggestions:

1. Write a heartfelt letter or card.
Even if you often tell your pal you love her, there’s something about putting it on paper. Jot down three favorite memories of your time together or list three of her best qualities — and how much you value them. Just remember to keep the facial tissues on hand when you present her with your note.

2. Plan a special “date.”
Your coffee chats and walks are meaningful, but try surprising your pal with an afternoon or evening centered on her. Do something she’s always wanted to do, whether it’s visiting downtown art galleries or going on a country bike ride. You can trade off months so you’ll have a fun day to look forward to planning (and attending!).

3. Compile a CD.
Who says mixed tapes are a thing of the past? As a fun token, create a CD with all of your favorite tunes, past and present — from your favorite jam in college to the boy-band song you tease her about liking now.

4. Schedule a video chat.
Whether you haven’t seen a friend in ages because she’s out of town or you’re both swamped with family duties, it’s still important to catch up face to face. Log onto Skype or Facetime to catch up as you do an activity together, whether it’s baking a batch of cookies or creating a craft.

5. Create a photo album.
Bring the scrapbook into modern day with a crafted photo album. Use a photo publishing site, like or, to create a gorgeous bound book of your favorite snapshots and memories. You’ll both be crying tears of laughter and joy — and reaching for those facial tissues!

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Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

Sharon Liao
is an editor and writer in Brooklyn, NY. She has been on staff at SHAPE, Prevention and Fitness magazines.

Stay Positive in Stressful Times

Beauty & Confidence: Mind & Wellness

By Kim Atkinson for Beauty & Confidence

When everyone in your family is down for the count with colds and the flu, you’re often the one who continues to be the family cheerleader. But keeping a positive perspective can be tough under some circumstances. 

“Being upbeat during stressful times is difficult,” says Dr. Eva Ritvo, vice chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “To stay positive, you’ve got to work it.”

What’s the best way to maintain an upbeat attitude? Ritvo offers these useful suggestions for rising to the challenge, no matter what you’re up against.

1. Sleep on it.

Busy moms know from experience — observing their own children — that getting enough shut-eye helps banish blue moods. So why not apply the same principles to yourself? “As adults, we forget about these things,” says Ritvo. “It’s difficult to stay upbeat when you’re working with a sleep deficit. For a positive outlook, getting a good night’s sleep of at least eight hours as many nights as you can is really important.”

2. Fuel up.

The right diet is as crucial to keeping a positive perspective as getting enough sleep. If you’re not eating properly, you’re stressing your body, and when your body is doing all it can just to function, a happy-go-lucky attitude is hard to obtain, says Ritvo. “Avoid things that send your blood sugar rising, like alcohol, diet soda or candy. You’re not going to have a positive outlook if your basic nutrition is not attended to.”

3. Get moving.

Experts agree that regular exercise can boost mood thanks to the feel-good endorphins it releases. “Our bodies were designed for a lot of movement,” says Ritvo. “Exercise makes you feel good, helps circulate your blood, gets rid of toxins, maintains your weight and stimulates your brain.” It does so many things that are essential to everyday happy functioning. Try to work in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether it’s a power walk, a bike ride or Pilates.

4. Try something new.

To keep a positive perspective, introduce variety into your daily routine. A study conducted at the National Institute on Aging found that the novelty of performing new activities has wide-ranging positive effects, including extending your life.

“Do something you haven’t done before, which is very stimulating for the brain,” says Ritvo. Make a new friend who doesn’t fit the mold of your old friends. Take a language class if you’ve never spoken a language. Take an art class if you’ve never done art. Give yourself the opportunity to grow in different ways. That’s very energizing.

5. Pair up.

Looking to change your perspective? Surround yourself with positive people. “Everybody knows someone who is the life of the party and looks at things in fun ways, so put yourself near them,” suggests Ritvo. “Ask them out to dinner. I like going to a book signing where everyone is excited to be there, or a sporting event where people are excited to be. Be around positive energy.”

6. Set aside time for yourself.

“It’s very easy to attend to people all day or attend to work and neglect ourselves, but that doesn’t work for creating a positive outlook,” says Ritvo. “It doesn’t matter what you do, but be sure to honor yourself and allow yourself to be in a space that works for you.” Ritvo suggests setting aside time for a bath, reading for half an hour or meditating to pump up your attitude.

7. Talk about it.

Sometimes, using positive language is all you need to shift your perspective. Ritvo suggests talking with a friend and making a pact to share with each other the things that you’re grateful for each day. “Tell each other two things, such as “I’m grateful for my health,'” she says. “Or ‘I’m grateful that I could walk up the nine flights of stairs today without being out of breath.'”

8. Put your best face forward.

As the old saying goes, when you look good, you feel good. You don’t have to compete with a fashion model, but do try to look your best whenever you can, says Ritvo. To be sure you do this even on your busiest days, set up a quick beauty station by your front door. Just place a basket with a mirror, mascara, eyeliner, blush and lipstick near the door so you can stop and quickly primp before you exit. Don’t forget to tuck a pack of Puffs facial tissues into your bag for touchups later. “Beauty can be an instant boost, and it matters,” says Ritvo.

9. Have faith.

Having confidence in yourself and your ability to tackle any challenge is key to keeping a positive perspective. “I like to call it a “faith lift,'” says Ritvo. “Tell yourself that you can survive these things, and it will come true. Having faith is very important. For some people, it might be a religion, for others it might be spirituality or just an inner confidence. Tell yourself you’re valuable, and the world will see it too.”

10. Practice being positive.

To make a positive mood a part of your permanent psyche, try this experiment: Ritvo suggests challenging yourself to pinpoint one appealing thing about everyone you encounter in a day. “One person might have a beautiful smile, and another a kind word to say,” she says. “Train yourself to zero in on positive things (even if it’s just one day a week), and (in time) you’ll see a change in your overall perspective.”

Kim Atkinson
is a journalist whose work has appeared in many print and online publications, including
Ladies’ Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Parenting, Parents, Chicago
Magazine, More, Beauty & Confidence

Are You a Drama Mama? Know When to Back Off

Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Cynthia Hanson for Life & Beauty Weekly

Your child has a fight with a friend. She’s in tears; you’re furious and ready to defend her. But should you? In this age of helicopter parenting, it’s hard not to step in when you see your child in a social dilemma. But that’s not always the answer.

“By keeping a distance and parenting from the wings, a parent can help her child work things out without parental intervention,” says Sara Dimerman, therapist, creator of and bestselling author of Am I a Normal Parent? and Character is the Key. “If the parent were to step in and take over, the child may begin to rely on adult intervention to resolve issues and may not be as inclined to think for herself. She may also not gain the life experience to apply to other similar situations as she gets older, even into the workforce.”

Letting children work things out on their own can also be a boost to their self-esteem, says Dimerman. “When children do resolve their own issues, they are proud of themselves and become increasingly self-reliant and confident.”

Here are some common kid dramas your child may face, and how to help her survive them — without being a drama mama.

Drama: Your second-grader is hurt because she didn’t get invited to a classmate’s birthday party.

Solution: Don’t call the birthday child’s mom and demand an invite for your child. Not only is this rude, but it also puts the mom in an awkward position if she has limited space or money for the party. “If the birthday girl was only allowed to invite a certain number of guests, your child may be comforted at being reminded of this,” says Dimerman.

Help your child deal with her disappointment by sharing your own sadness about times when you were left out of parties or clubs. Remind her that she didn’t invite the entire class to her last birthday party, and, if the classmate isn’t a close friend of hers, point that out. Finally, suggest a get-together with her true pals. “Disappointment is part of life, and although we don’t always want to say that to our children, we do want them to learn to cope with disappointment.”

Drama: Your son complains that no one plays with him at recess.

Solution: Call or email the teacher, advises Dimerman. “She may be able to shed some light on the problem.”

Also try to watch your son in action. “If your child is not yet embarrassed by your presence and if you are allowed to, observe your child interact with his peers at recess, in class or even at home,” says Dimerman. “If you notice that your child is behaving in a way that turns kids off, you can say something like ‘I noticed that when you told Steve that he didn’t know what he was talking about, he just walked away. Why do you think that happened?’ Asking kids questions that you already know the answers to, in a curious and gentle manner, can help them arrive at the same answers. This is more effective then just telling them what you think.”

Drama: Your 10-year-old has fallen out with her BFF — whose mom just happens to be a good friend of yours.

Solution: “Most moms know and understand that girls, in particular, can be best friends one day and worst enemies the next,” says Dimerman.

First, ask your daughter what caused the rift, keeping in mind that she’s telling only one side of the story. Be supportive — “It hurts when your friend is mad at you, doesn’t it?” — and suggest she try a heart-to-heart to end the fight. “Help your child explore options in regard to the relationship with her friend. Brainstorm ideas — good and bad — then help your child figure out which she’d like to try first before considering the other options,” says Dimerman.

From there, discuss the issue with your friend — without placing blame on anyone: “It’s hard to watch our girls go through this. It’s probably just a misunderstanding. Let’s get them to sit down and work it out.”

Cynthia Hanson is a journalist who writes for many national publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents and American BabyShe is a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.

Finding Hidden Moments for Me-time

Beauty & Confidence: Mind & Wellness

By Kim Atkinson for Beauty & Confidence

When your day is devoted to taking care of your kids, your husband, your job and the many other important things on your agenda, it can seem impossible to schedule time for yourself. But setting aside your own time is key to maintaining your physical and mental health, says Dr. Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say it and Mean it, and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.

Here are six expert ways to find hidden moments in your day and how to spend them so you feel energized and invigorated.

1. Find the time. For one day, keep a log of all your activities to see how much spare time you actually do have. Then, schedule time for yourself and stick to it. “Create an appointment with yourself and hold it every bit as sacred as an event for one of your kids, or an important work meeting,” says Dave Kashen, a San Francisco-based personal and executive coach.

2. Write it down. Carry a small notebook or an electronic device that you can use to jot down what you have to do as it comes to mind, says Newman. Recording tasks in real time allows you to see the difference between what’s really important and what can be postponed. The time you would have spent on nonessential to-do’s can then be applied to you.

3. Be grateful. Keep a gratitude journal in which you write down a few things each day that you are grateful for, says Kashen. You can even write a thank you note to yourself, reminding yourself of the contributions that you make to your family.

4. Manage your energy. Throughout your day, think about managing energy. Make a list of the things that give you energy and the things that zap your energy, says Kashen. Try to shift your day so you do more of the tasks that energize you. When you’re feeling depleted of energy, incorporate an energizing task into your schedule.

5. Work it out. Bursts of movement are a great way to focus on your well-being, says Newman. “While you are waiting in the car or somewhere else, do ankle flexing, or neck exercises and arm rotations,” she says. Or try to incorporate movement into your daily routine. “You can do deep knee bends while you brush your teeth,” adds Newman.

6. Think about it. Meditation is a great way to recharge your energy and can be done almost anywhere and anytime you find yourself on pause. “Close your eyes and think about lying on a beach or being in your favorite place,” says Kashen. “Whether or not you are into meditating, a few minutes of downtime can be energizing.”

Like this article? Get more by following us @FaceEveryDay
or friending us on Facebook at Beauty & Confidence.

Kim Atkinson
is a journalist whose work
has appeared in many print and online publications, including

Ladies’ Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Parenting, Parents, Chicago
Magazine, More, Beauty & Confidence