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Building our children's self esteem

May 26, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

As parents we are the primary influences on our children. One of our greatest responsibilities is helping our children grow up healthy, with high self esteem. We want our children to be happy with who they are.

That unconditional love also means accepting our children’s feelings. Accepting feelings and teaching our children healthy ways to deal with them is vital.

For example, when our children are angry it is important to acknowledge the feeling of anger but also to teach our children healthy ways to deal with that anger. “I can tell that you are angry. We all get angry about things, but it is not ok to hit. Sit here and have some space to cool down.”

Children will have a greater sense of self esteem if they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their own experiences, Jan Gordon, Ohio State University Fact Sheet, noted in an article on “Building Children’s Self esteem.”

Giving children responsibility helps them feel valued. It helps them believe that we think they are important, valuable and helpful. It promotes self-confidence. Children tend to rise to the occasion when we give them responsibility. We should not do for children what they can do for themselves.

Children thrive on choices. Giving children choices that are appropriate also helps them to develop a sense of ownership.

We should always remember to not judge our children, make fun of them or put them down. We should not expect perfection, rather the effort.

Defining limits for our children is crucial. Communicating those limits clearly and simply helps our children understand what appropriate behavior is. Children need to know limits and consequences, and we should stick to them being flexible when necessary.

We need to remember that discipline needs to be geared to our children’s age and developmental level so that what we are asking is appropriate for their age and development.

Children need that sense of emotional protection and stability of limits and guidelines for self esteem and healthy development, researchers tell us.

Using positive discipline as much as possible versus focusing on the negative helps build our children’s self confidence as well.

Talk. Talk. Listen. Listen. Listen. It is important we keep those lines of communication open with our children and to really be available to them both physically and emotionally.

We should choose times when we give our children our undivided attention with minimal distractions. Asking open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer helps create a more open dialogue of conversation and sharing.

We should look at our children when talking with them; listen to them; ask questions and paraphrase their statements to show that we are listening to what they say and to validate what they have to say is important to us.

When I pick up my children from school I almost always ask each of them how their day went and specifically ask them something about the day, whether it be about a test they took, their band lesson, what they are singing in music, etc. They almost always have lots to share with me. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. I feel I am really connecting with my children.

Of course telling our children that we love them no matter what, and giving those hugs and kisses shows them that are loved.

I attended a workshop on self esteem and children, and the presenter was a children’s librarian from the public library in Hutchinson, which is part of the Pioneerland Library System.

These were some of the children’s books recommended on self esteem (I have read many of these wonderful books.):

• “Because I Love You So Much” by Guido van Genechten

• “Clifford I Love You” by Norman Bridwell

• “The Child’s World of Success” by Janet McDonnell

• “Every Friday” by Dan Yaccarino

• “I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self Esteem” by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

• “Kissing Hand,” “Kiss Goodbye,” and “A Pocket Full of Kisses” all by Audrey Penn

• “It’s Not What You’ve Got” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

• “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch

• “You Are Special: A Story for Everyone” by Max Lucado