During the Christmas break, take the time to ask your child the following question: Do you feel good about yourself? Many of us have a difficult time answering that question ourselves. No matter what our confidence level, all of us could use a little reassurance every now and then. Our children are no different.

Our children lack confidence. Their lack of self-esteem is evident in the choices they make on a daily basis. Our boys, many of whom are already failing academically, trade in their school bags for nickel and dime bags, making money the hard and fast way. Our girls, precociously naive, choose to bring life into this world at too early an age instead of saving themselves for someone who appreciates their worth.

Confident children are not born; they are nurtured into self-assuredness. And we play a role in that. Parents and teachers are the biggest cheerleaders for kids. However, we tend to mock on the sidelines when our team has gone through a rough slump: If our son comes home from school with a bad report card, we tell them their no-good cousin started out the same way. If our daughter spends more time with her boyfriend than her books, we get her a prescription for birth control and pray that she won’t end up pregnant.

We cannot purchase self-esteem from an outlet mall or buy it off eBay as we do holiday gifts. However, we can instill it in our children through each and every interaction we share with them. Here are some common sense ways to increase your child’s self-esteem and set them on the starting line to fulfilling their greatest potential:

Hang out with your child, just because

Too often the time that we spend with our children usually involves doctors’ appointments and completing homework. With our busy lives, there seems to be little time for much else. However, children are much more sensitive to this than you may think, and they suffer from it. Instead of being with your child just to update their vaccinations, take the time and talk to them. Go to the park and run a few laps. Skip a date with a friend and, instead, take your child to see a movie. Show them that you want to hang out with them just because they are great people, and they will start to appreciate themselves more.

Calm down before disciplining your child

When we are angry, we often say the first thing that comes to mind, and our children reap the repercussions. Children are often the victims of parents’ day-to-day frustrations, being called derogatory names when parents are at their wits’ end.

Instead of blowing up on Little Tommy because he left his homework at school, give him a contemplative stare, think about the names you want to call him, and tell him to go to his room until you are ready to talk?”that is, until you have taken deep breaths, punched a few pillows, or whatever it is you do to become your sweet self again. Then discipline Tommy in a fashion that does not devalue him?”only the behavior he displayed.

Let your child help others

Most adults feel better about themselves when they feel wanted or needed, and that applies to children, too. Think of something your child is good at, and let him/her put that skill to use helping someone else out. Perhaps an elderly neighbor needs his snow shoveled from time to time, or maybe one of your relatives’ children could use a math tutor. Have your son or daughter assist them, and their confidence will shoot through the roof when they discover how much their help is needed.

Allow them to associate with children
who already have high self-esteem

Be cautious of the friends your child brings home. Are they involved in any extracurricular activities, or do they just hang around the house and watch television? Are they receiving love and guidance from their own parents, or do they try to seek it from the opposite sex? Are they happy with just being themselves, or do they seem to stretch themselves just to fit in?

Peer pressure is an extremely weighty issue for pre-adolescents and teenagers. Therefore, make sure if your child’s friends are influencing them, that these friends are individuals who will sway them in the right direction.

I once heard the very confident Oprah Winfrey state, “You become what you believe, not what you want.” We all want the best for our children, but we need to believe that our children are good people who can accomplish more than they can dream and spend each and every moment helping them believe it as well.