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Caring Families: How Parents Build Self-Esteem in Kids

By Jean Tracy, MSS

Being a kind and loving parent is like serving your family milk and cookies. If you notice the good in your family members and tell them honestly and specifically, you will be setting the table for raising youngsters with caring hearts.

Today, we'll discuss the Ripple Effect, see how being a bitter critic hurts rather than helps, share how to build a healthy family identity, and we'll offer an activity that fosters the kind of self-esteem that helps kids care about others.

The Ripple Effect and Brain Waves

Parents cause ripples with their words and actions. When children hear adults frequently restate compliments or “put-downs,” their brains waves recite them as personal beliefs. The next time they do something nice or not so nice; the resulting ripples can turn into good or bad feelings about themselves.

9 Worst Things to Say to Kids and Why

A parent can become a critical judge when he feels tired, cranky, and frustrated. If a child hears the ripples of criticism often enough, he'll begin to believe that's who he is.

When he believes the words, he may even act on them, thinking. “If you say I'm bad, I'll show you how bad I can be.” Here are some examples that become a child's inner self-talk when a critical parent utters them enough:


1. “You never do your chores,” becomes, “Mom's right. I'm lazy.”
2. “I wish you never born,” becomes, “I'm not good enough.”
3. “I hate you,” becomes, “I'm not lovable.”
4. “You lie to get out of punishments,” becomes, “I'm a liar.
5. “You always get your way,” “becomes, “I'm selfish.”
6. “You're not trustworthy,” becomes, “Dad's right. I can't be trusted.”
7. “You're spineless,” becomes, “I'm a weakling.”
8. “You whine too much,” becomes, “Mom's right. I'm a complainer.”
9. “You're spoiled rotten,” becomes, “I'm no good.


The problem with criticism is it rarely helps a child become better. It often increases a child's bitterness, anger, and sadness. Ask yourself, “Do I like criticism?” If you said, “Yes,” you are rare. But if you said “No,” consider how children feel when criticized.

The Ripple Effect of negativity weakens a child's ability to care about others and expands his dislike for himself.

How to Raise a Caring Family

Developing thoughtfulness in children isn't difficult. If you have a loving home life, you are providing a strong foundation for your offspring. If you model sympathy, compassion, and caring, you become a powerful influence for your youngsters' behavior.

Here is a family activity for growing solid roots because it promotes a positive group identity. Ask your children, “What do you want our family to be like?” Invite examples by saying, “What would we be doing to show we are like this? This list of qualities can spice up the discussion. 5 or 6 qualities are enough.

Bonding Activity to Build Family Character


1. We love each other.
2. We care about others.
3. We help others.
4. We encourage others.
5. We are patient with others.
6. We keep our word.
7. We work hard.
8. We listen well.
9. We are loyal.
10. We tell the truth.
11. We are trustworthy.
12. We are brave even when it's hard to be brave.


When your family members decide on the qualities it wants, print them in special font and post on the fridge or put them in a picture frame with a family photo. Place it where your family will see it often. Then challenge family members to notice these qualities in each other as they occur.

The Ripple Effect for building a healthy family identity can propel young ones to act toward others with wholesome family traits.

Activity for Developing a Child's Character

Parents, who are open-minded and care about people in and outside the family, help their youngsters develop healthy thoughts and feelings toward others. Here's a weekly practice to promote kindness in your kids.

Once a week each family member puts his name in small box and places it in the middle of the dinner table. Each member picks a name and thinks about a character trait they noticed in that person during the past week.

9 Positive Character Traits for Children

Members give an example of something that person said or did like:


1. Gentle
2. Helpful
3. Loving
4. Understanding
5. Funny
6. Encouraging
7. Caring
8. Honest
9. Respectful

9 Examples How Givers and Receivers Build Character

The Giver tells the person with the name she picked what quality and behavior she noticed. Parents can help the younger children with a character trait and an example.

The Receiver says, “Thank you.”


1. Giver: “You were patient with me when we played our new video game."
2. Giver: “You were gentle with the little kids when you wrestled with them.”
3. Giver: “You pitched in and helped clean the garage.” Receiver: “Thank you.”
4. Giver: “You showed your loving heart when you gave me an ‘I love you note.'”
5. Giver: “You were good to our dog when you took him for walks."
6. Giver: “You understood my feelings when you listened to what happened to me.”
7. Giver: “You made me laugh when I felt sad."
8. Giver: “You gave me courage to try again when I showed you my spelling grade."
9. Giver: “You said nice things about your friend when the kids were gossiping.”


The goal of this activity is to have each receiver internalize these positive character traits as part of their own identity. It is hoped when opportunities arise; it will be easier for each member to act accordingly.

This Ripple Effect creates a mindset of goodness that can last a lifetime. Why? Because it's likely, if you clearly and honestly see yourself as a good person, you will be good to others. It's who you are.

Conclusion for Raising Caring Families

The Ripple Effect begins with a parent's words and actions. It can expand children's character to be positive, strong, and caring or it can weaken them to become negative, hurt, and self-absorbed.

Criticism is sour. Compliments are sweet.

Practice the activity for developing a family character and the activity for developing your child's character. If you do, you'll be strengthening healthy beliefs within your family and within your child. Armed with traits like empathy, caring, and compassion, your family members will spread ripples that promote goodness throughout the world. What could be better than that?

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Please enjoy this brief video Confident Kids! A Powerful Parenting Tool

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