All parents want to raise a happy child who has positive self-esteem and a strong sense of self. A child who knows him or herself well and is proud of their uniqueness. All children are special and have their own set of unique talents, interests and personality traits and your child’s uniqueness should be celebrated.
If your child understands this, he or she will be able to stand up for themselves and not feel the pressure to change to fit in with others. It’s important for children to have this understanding from a young age, so by the time they reach the often-difficult middle school years, they are well-equipped with the foundation that makes it easier to resist peer pressure and keep a healthy self-esteem.
So, how do you help your child discover what makes them unique and celebrate your child’s uniqueness? Here we share six ways to encourage and celebrate your child’s uniqueness
Six ways to encourage and celebrate your child’s uniqueness
Think about what your dreams and goals are for your child
Do you want your child to be similar to you? Would you love your child to participate in the same activities?
Maybe you loved being in the school band. You were such a skilled musician that you often earned yourself solos, you met your best friends through your participation in music and you learned important life lessons through this activity. You’d love your child to be interested in music also so you could bond through this shared interest and help your child in developing their talent.
Or, maybe it’s the opposite, you considered yourself shy and awkward growing up and you don’t want your child to repeat the same (what you consider) mistakes. You want your child to seize every opportunity and to be a social butterfly.
Now, take these goals and dreams for your child and throw them out the window! I’m being dramatic…of course. All these dreams for your child are well-intentioned. And, wanting the best for your child shows what an amazing parent you are but you can’t force your dreams and goals on your child.
She is her own unique person and deserves to follow her dreams and goals. Follow your child’s lead and support any interests she shares with you. Allow her to explore these interests. As a parent, you should be there as her biggest support, offering encouragement and feedback but not asking her to live out your dreams, even subliminally.
If you struggle with this, remind yourself that you want your child to be happy, and she will have the best chance of happiness if she follows her own unique dreams and goals. There are so many roads leading toward happiness, not only the path that you have in your mind. Your child is growing up and deserves to make their own choices and learn along the way, through both her successes and failures.
Offer your child the option to participate in varied activities
As children grow up, they aren’t sure what activities they’ll enjoy nor do they know all the options available to them. If you receive an email about participation in robotics club or Girl Scouts, enthusiastically offer this opportunity to your child.
Explain to your child what you know about the activity. If you have limited knowledge about the activity, that’s okay, be honest about that. It’ll be fun to search online or watch videos to learn about a new activity together.
Even if your child chooses not to participate in the activity, learning about something new broadens his knowledge and you are demonstrating that you are happy for him to participate in any activity he’d like to try. You want your child to choose the activities that make him happy and are geared toward his unique interests.
Connect activities to career exploration
Not every child is a good student. School is difficult for many children and causes them feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. We don’t want this difficulty to create negative views of school which can have a detrimental effect on your child’s self-esteem.
Focus on what your child likes about school and encourage that. If your child is a great artist, encourage this unique talent. Explain to your child that school is hard for a lot of children but she has a unique interest and talent she can focus on in school.
Go further in this discussion to connect her talent to careers she can pursue in the field of art, from being a painter, to a graphic designer to working in an art museum. This shows your child you’re proud of the unique and special child she is. She will still need to work hard in school, but she has a unique talent that she can focus on.
When your child focuses on her talents and knows she can choose a career in this field, it gives her talent a stronger meaning and purpose. Your child’s uniqueness becomes more special to them as they see a positive future through developing her talent, rather than trying to fit into a mold that doesn’t feel natural to her.
When your child achieves success celebrate every accomplishment together
Let your child know how proud you are of him for all of his hard work. This includes accomplishments academically, within his activities, socially and behaviourally. Most parents naturally congratulate their child for the big accomplishments, such as earning good grades, but celebrate the little accomplishments also.
Did you overhear your child standing up for himself when he was talking with a friend? Tell your child how proud you are of him for standing up for himself. Don’t forget to explain why. It can be a simple explanation, such as, “It can be hard to stand up for yourself to a friend. I’m proud of you for respecting yourself enough to do that.” This will show your child you support him and want him to do what feels right to him, not follow the group.
Focus on the journey, rather than the accomplishment
Often when children demonstrate respect for another’s talents, they diminish their own talents. Your child might have a different talent than the person she respects, or she may not have achieved the same level of success with this talent, as this other person. Don’t allow your child to look down on herself by admiring another.
Instead, use this as an opportunity. Agree with your child that yes, this accomplishment or talent is amazing. Take the conversation a step further by pointing out to your child that it took a lot of hard work to achieve this goal.
No one just wakes up successful. Every accomplishment involves time, commitment and hard work. Suggest your child creates a goal she can work toward, something that is important to her. Your child should write down the goal to keep her motivated toward working.
You should celebrate your child’s successes along the way with her. This will show your child that she is capable of great accomplishments, but it involves work. This type of thinking offers a valuable life lesson, encourages children to develop their talents and to value their uniqueness talents.
Your child’s self-esteem will raise as she achieves these successes toward her larger goal which is another benefit. Accomplishments increase self-esteem, as does working toward something that is important to your child and honors their uniqueness. This is true regardless of the nature of the goal, it could be something like being friendly to others (because your child values this as a core personality trait in herself) or making first honour roll (because she views herself as smart and capable of achieving this honor if she puts in the work).
Teach your child that all people have strengths and weaknesses
It’s good for your child to understand he has unique talents but also areas of weakness, and that this is true for everyone. These differences make us special and unique in the same way our talents make us special and unique.
Teach your child that he cannot expect himself to be good at everything and to accept his weaknesses in the same way he accepts his strengths. Your child may need to work harder to overcome weaknesses or use supports to help him overcome an area of weakness, but this is true for all people.
Teach your child to be kind when he observes others make a mistake. Use this as an example to show your child that every person has strengths and weaknesses. Explain to your child that this mistake may show a challenging area for that person.
Also, when you make mistakes, such as being late or forgetting to do something, use this as an opportunity to demonstrate to your imperfection and that you make mistakes.
Show your child you accept your own weaknesses and mistakes and can even laugh about them. Tell your child what you could have done differently to avoid that mistake, such as using better time management, posting a reminder or setting an alarm. The best way to encourage your child’s uniqueness and raise a child who values their own uniqueness is to value yours. Children learn best through example.
Jennifer Licate is a school counselor and award-winning children’s book author. Her Navigating Friendships series of books were published in 2020 and 2021. This set includes three books, He’s Not Just Teasing, Am I Weird? and I Lost my BFF. Am I Weird? focuses on teaching children to value their individuality and find friends who respect and value you. For more information about Jennifer or her books, please visit her website at: https://www.storiesbyjennifer.com/ and follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jenniferlicate/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.licate/.