Ways to Encourage and Celebrate Your Child's Uniqueness

Father and daughter wearing robot costumes at home

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One of the most amazing aspects of parenting is watching your child grow from a tiny, helpless infant to a full-fledged child full of opinions, ideas, preferences, style, and quirks. Yes, sometimes we might wish our defiant preschooler or surly teen would revert back to their rosy-cheeked baby self. But watching your child grow into themselves is a true gift, no matter how exacerbating it can be at times.

All children are unique in their own ways, and one of our top jobs as parents is to nurture those qualities in our children that make them who they are. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially because life is full of challenges. Yet in so many ways, it’s simpler than we think—and the rewards are infinite.

How Kids’ Personalities Are Formed

Experts agree that a child’s personality doesn’t fully form until they are in elementary school. It’s around then that it becomes clear whether your child has more introverted or extroverted tendencies, how open they are to new experiences, what their creative minds look like, and how much of an organized (or disorganized!) approach they take to life. 

Your child’s personal style, interests, and passions may start to form at this age—though it may not be until the tween or teen years that you find out if you are raising a true sports fanatic, a bona fide bookworm, a tech whiz, or a theater lover.

At the same time, almost any parent will tell you that their child’s “essence” or temperament was apparent pretty soon after they were born (or maybe even while they were still in utero). While our personality is shaped by things like parenting methods, adversity, and socioeconomic status, the core of who we are—and what makes each of us unique—is often something we were born with.

Benefits of Embracing Your Child’s Uniqueness 

Although there is certainly some influence we parents can have on who our children ultimately become, the essence of who your child is isn’t actually something that can be changed very much. Realizing this is a lightbulb moment for many parents who may be trying to push their child be something they are not—or something they, as parents, wish their child would be.

The truth is, as uncomfortable as it can sometimes be, embracing your child for who they are is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Bonding and Self-Confidence

Not only will it strengthen your bond with your child, but it will give your child the confidence they need to take that personality and share it with the rest of the world.

Fortitude to Make a Difference

A child who is loved for who they are—differences and all—is a child who can show up in their life with courage, mental strength, and the wherewithal to make the world a better place.

Strength to Face Adversity

They will be better suited to face challenges from others, because as awful as it is to think about, your child will encounter cruelty and intolerance at some point in life.

Tolerance for Others

Raising children with a foundation of trust and self-esteem will help them weather any storm they find themselves up against—and it will allow them to embrace others’ differences with the same level of acceptance.

How to Help Your Child Embrace Their Uniqueness 

Nurturing your child’s true spirit is actually easier than you think—and a lot of it has to do with things that you should stop doing. Nurturing your child’s inner self means stepping back and letting them shine for who they are.

Allow Your Child to Select Their Own Extracurricular Activities

Yes, you may have pictured your child in Little League, or as a piano superstar, but sometimes what you imagined for your child is not where their heart is leading them. Each child has their own unique gifts. Allow them the autonomy to find the find the activities that suit their style.

Let Children Dress Themselves (As Much As Possible)

This is a hard one, especially since appearances mean so much to many of us. But one simple way to let your child’s uniqueness shine is by giving them a say in picking out their wardrobe. Each kid has their own personal style, and letting them dress themselves is a great way to promote positive self-expression.

Encourage Body Autonomy

Your child’s body belongs to them and them alone. This is a powerful lesson, not just in the name of nurturing your child’s uniqueness, but also in terms of protecting their personal safety. As much as possible, let your child decide what happens to their body—what they wear, eat, who they interact with and how they interact with them.

Give Your Child a Safe Space to Express Feelings

No one wants to let a child scream for 45 minutes about eating green beans, but at the same time, if something is upsetting your child—no matter how senseless it seems to you—you always want your child to know that you take their feelings seriously. 

Because the next time they are crying about something, it might be something much more serious than green beans, and you want your child to feel that you are a safe person for them to share their feelings with.

View Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

Even when your child messes up—especially then—help them see the lesson that can be learned. Shame and guilt are not helpful when your child messes up. True growth comes from learning from your mistakes and finding the positive in even the most difficult circumstances.

Work on Your Own Self-Esteem Issues

We don’t realize how much our children look to us as a model for how to live life. If you are always criticizing yourself, pointing out your own flaws, and not being willing to embrace your own differences, your child will take that to heart.

Becoming a parent is a great opportunity to work on your own “stuff.” In doing so, you will be helping your child become the best version of themselves possible.

Embrace Your Child’s Differences

We parents don’t always mean to, but it’s easy to see our child’s differences and want to push them toward conformity. It’s not always easy to raise a child who looks, sounds, or acts differently than what we think is acceptable, or what society deems as “normal.”

If you are the parent of an extra special, standout kid, celebrate this difference. Accept them for who they are and let them shine.

A Word from Verywell 

Our kids have more strength, creativity, and know-how than we often give them credit for. Unfortunately, we can’t shield them from the curveballs that life will inevitably throw at them, but we can give them the tools to be their best, most authentic selves so that they can live a happy, strong, and meaningful life.

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