Don’t Say 'No You’re Not'
If your child says something negative about himself -- or tells you someone else has -- your first instinct will probably be to say “No you’re not!” or “You’re perfect.”
Trouble is, these responses don’t help when your kid is already feeling bad, Corning says. A better approach? Listen until he’s done speaking. Then, acknowledge how he feels and follow up with questions. For example: “That sounds terrible. What makes you say that?” This can lead to a better conversation. It can also help you find out if other issues -- like bullying, or trouble with puberty-related body changes -- are part of the problem.
No matter what your child says or does, “try to remain unfazed,” Corning says. “The minute you act shocked or start lecturing, they’re going to shut down and end the conversation.”
Watch With Them
Smartphones, TV, computers: Everywhere kids turn, they’re bombarded with media images of what’s “hot,” “cool,” and “perfect.” Those images -- styled or airbrushed to look just right -- can make kids feel bad about themselves. “You can’t shield them from the media. But you can talk to them about what they’re seeing,” Corning says.
“Watch TV with them when you can. Find out what websites and magazines they’re looking at,” Chadwick says. “With my daughter, we talked about what it must be like for actors and reality TV stars to have the pressure to look a certain way, and to have people always criticizing you.” One conversation may not lead to a light-bulb moment for them. But keep talking. You can help them start to see that they don’t have to look like the people they see in the media.
Give the Right Compliment
A lot of your child’s confidence comes from your approval. Compliments help if you give the right ones. It’s OK to make an occasional appearance-related comment, like “You’re really pretty.” That’s especially true if you know your child has put effort into how she looks.
But “if you’re constantly talking about their appearance, you run the risk of them thinking that’s what you value them for,” Chadwick says. Instead, make an effort to mostly praise them for their achievements and abilities. For example, “What strong legs you have,” “You’re really kind,” or “I like how hard you tried.”