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Building self esteem

May 19, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

We, as parents and caregivers, want our children to grow up with a healthy, positive sense of self esteem and self-worth. And we, as their parents, have the all important task of helping our children to develop healthy, with strong self esteem.

A child does not naturally think that they are bad, failures or unlovable unless they are “told” and shown that. If a parent yells a lot at their children and makes them feel bad, ashamed and unworthy, a child’s sense of self-worth is affected.

As children grow up with these feelings, they can develop a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I can’t do anything right so why try at all. I’m bad so why not do bad things.”

How we treat our children from infancy on matters. When babies develop attachments with adults who are responsible for them, the foundations of self esteem are laid down early in life, www.kidsource.com notes in an article, “How Can We Strengthen Children’s Self esteem?”

Infants learn early on that when they cry, their needs will be met. Babies feel good when cuddled and comforted. They begin to feel safe. That is why it is important to respond to our baby’s cries and to provide comfort for them. It tells them that they are important people, worthy of love. This is the beginning of laying the foundation of healthy development and good self esteem.

Children with a positive self-concept and high self esteem have an easier time in life. Success in school and getting along with others all depend on how children feel about themselves.

In fact, research shows that a positive self-concept is more important to academic success than a high IQ, http://ohioline.osu.edu noted in an article on Building Children’s Self esteem.

There are many things that we as adults can do to help build and foster our children’s self esteem.

We need to treat each of our children as unique individuals. It is important that we don’t compare a child with siblings, friends and classmates. We need to accept each child for who they are – not what we want them to be.

Accepting our children’s successes and failures is vital. We all make mistakes and we need to relay the message to our children that learning is a process – we learn from our mistakes and defeats. We should let our children know that our love and support for them is unchanged regardless. Life does have its ups and downs, and teaching our children how to cope with “defeats” and “victories” is vital.

Keep expectations real and realistic. We need to have our expectations in line with our children’s ages, backgrounds, etc. – their developmental level. And we need to help our children set realistic goals as well.

Focus on the positives in their behavior and don’t dwell on the negative. We should praise without over-praising, which can actually raise doubts for our children. Use phrases of appreciation, such as “thank-you for helping.”

Professionals tell us to avoid “backhanded praise,” which mixes praise and insult. Backhanded praise would be saying something like, “It’s about time,” versus, “I am glad you finished it.”

We want the praise to be genuine so that it teaches our children to appreciate their own efforts and talents.

Recognize steps along the way. Efforts made along the way to the completion of a task is important. Focusing on the effort in the process instead of just the end result shows our children that we appreciate their efforts, which in turn encourages our children to appreciate their own efforts.

We can also help our children have successful experiences by breaking down tasks into a set of steps, one step at a time. Giving children clear and concise directions helps build success. Children are more apt to put forth effort if they understand what they need to do, and if it is not overwhelming.

Sources: www.kisource.com, http://ohioline.osu.edu)

Of course, loving our children unconditionally, accepting them and being there for them are keys to helping our children grow up with self-worth and self esteem.

Next week’s article will continue to focus on ways that we can help build our children’s self esteem and self-love. If we are happier with ourselves and who we are, we are more apt to be happy with others and pass that happiness on. We want our children to be healthy individuals with a healthy sense of self-worth.