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How to Raise Kids with Good Self-Esteem

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"Let your child essentially borrow your control," advises Kutner. "First, if he's small, say 4 or 5, physically pick him up and move him, even if it's just three feet." (If he's too old to be carried, gently walk him elsewhere.) "That gives the message that you're in control. Talk calmly. Give him the words to put things into perspective. Say something like, 'It must be very frustrating right now.' Or 'You couldn't get what you wanted.' Most kids calm down very quickly."

Adds Atilla Ceranoglu, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Boston area: "Distract and redirect. If the post-failure reaction is either too severe — crying, anger — or too stoic, then distract your child with something neutral: Offer her a snack, or suggest a different type of activity — walking, riding her bike, watching TV. Follow her lead. If she wants to talk about the loss, do so without overreacting but by gently exploring — asking questions like, 'What happened next?' and 'How did you feel then?' "

What a bad loser needs most, says educator Alfie Kohn, the author of Unconditional Parenting, is TLC. "The best way to immunize kids against the hurt of failure," he says, "is to let them know every day that we love them for who they are, not for what they do. They have to feel that our love for them doesn't diminish one bit when they screw up or fall short."

 

Originally published on December 15, 2009

 

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