Q: My 11-year-old thinks he's a failure because his grades are never as good as his older brother's. What can I do to help boost my younger child's self-esteem?
A: The first step is to identify the strengths and talents that make your younger son unique, says Mary Ann Shaw, Ed.D., Dallas-based author of Your Anxious Child. He may be good at playing sports, telling jokes, or making friends. "Help him see that while his gifts are different, they're no less appreciated," Dr. Shaw suggests.
In addition, praise effort rather than outcome. "If you focus on effort and improvement, both kids will have a fair shot at recognition," says Dr. Shaw.
Finally, encourage your children to be proud of each other by keeping them involved in the other's special activities. "In a family in which support is evenly distributed," says Dr. Shaw, "everyone gets the kinds of perks that build self-esteem."
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