One of the best things we can teach our child is to have positive self-esteem. We know that kids copy what they see, hear, and feel. In order to foster that positive self-esteem in our kids, we need to model the behavior and teach them how to find the good in every situation. For some tips and tricks to that end, we turn once again to Gourmet Parenting and the wise words of wisdom from the women who came before us.
By Teresa Cicone
The term “self-esteem” refers to how a person feels about himself. It is his over-all judgement of himself. The word “esteem” means literally “to appreciate the worth of.” So “self-esteem” would mean to appreciate the worth of the self. We all have self-esteem. The amount of good feelings about ourselves varies from individual to individual.
A child begins to put together his picture of himself or his self-concept at birth. By age five, almost everyone has formed a basic self-image. The significant people in a child’s life such as his parents, siblings, friends, and teachers mirror to him who he is. All children collect some self-esteem builders and some self-esteem shredders. If a child receives more positive, affirming messages, he will come to live an “I like me” self-image. If, on the other hand, he receives more negative messages, he will have an “I dislike me” self-image.
Self-image is simply the set of beliefs a child puts together – a package called “Me.” It is different from the real self, which is that inner being that is born perfect and never needs changing. If a child seems to be developing an “I don’t like me” self-image, it is not the inner core of his being that needs changing, but simply his point of view about himself.
As a parent you can help your child develop self-esteem. One important way is to give careful consideration to how you communicate with him. The key to effective communication is listening. Since a child’s self-esteem is his own personal evaluation of himself, it is essential to gather feedback directly from him. Then when you get verbal or non-verbal messages from him about how he feels about himself, you will be able to help him alter his point of view about himself.
You will foster low self-esteem in your child if your communication with him consists of labeling, judging and criticizing. If, instead, you provide an atmosphere in which he feels safe enough to express the full range of his feelings, and you give him support for those feelings, you will be nurturing self-esteem.
Listening without judgement while a child discovers what his feelings may be at any given moment will help him learn to know and accept himself, and this is an important ingredient of high self-esteem. However, listening is not enough. If you encourage your child to express all of his feelings some of them will be scary to him. The angers and jealousies and panics of a young child are as yet untamed. If he translated them into action, he might hurt the people he loves the most, and his self-esteem would be damaged more than if he never acknowledged the fact that they were a part of him. Therefore, as a parent, you need to communicate very clearly to him not only your calm acceptance, but also your ability and willingness to help him control these feelings until he is able to do so for himself, and to channel them into socially acceptable ways of being expressed. Authentic communication of this type between you and your child will help him understand that he is not only acceptable to you when he puts his best foot forward, but also when he allows you to know him totally.
A child is much like a plant. As an infant, he is like a seed. He has the inner potential to grow. Each child is unique and will grow according to his own inner timetable and develop interests that are distinctively his own. Just as a seed without proper nourishment and light will not grow, a child without proper nurturing will not develop to the best of his abilities. As a parent your task is to nurture this seed so that its full potential is realized.
What are the conditions that will allow a child to grow up with positive, healthy feelings about himself? The first thing he must learn is that his uniqueness is valued by others. He needs to know that his parents value the qualities that make him special or different. The second condition is that he feels he is a part of something larger than himself. He could be a part of a family, then a classroom, then a team, and then society. He is learning to relate to others and grasp a solid sense of his own identity. The third condition is power. The child learns to feel that he is in charge of important things in his own life. He learns how to make decisions and solve problems. He also believes he can do what he set out to do, and that he will be a success. The fourth condition is that a child grow up with models for his own behavior. Parents, teachers, relatives and friends are all people whom children learn to copy. “Human models” teach children how to handle various situations in a successful way.
Parents who themselves have high self-esteem not only serve as models to their children, they also seem to be able to transmit their own sense of self-worth to their children through the quality of their interactions with them. If you, as a parent, can enhance your own self-esteem, you will find it increasingly easy to provide all of the conditions which will help your child have high self-esteem.
It is reassuring to note that because an individual creates his own level of self-esteem, it can be changed at any time. Choices and viewpoints which fit yesterday may no longer apply. They may be reviewed and adjusted and ultimately replaced with entirely new feelings about oneself. So, even if mistakes are made, they can be rectified. No one should feel that the choices they have made earlier in life have to be permanent.
How To Increase Your Self-Esteem
You may be wondering how you can go about making changes if you are not pleased with the outer package called “you.” One way is through affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements about how you would like things to be.
- Make a positive statement about yourself. Example: I am a good listener; friend; painter; etc. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
- Thinks about something you would like to change about yourself. Example: I have a bad temper. I would like to change it.
- Write a positive statement and place in your home where you will see it many times during the day (i.e. refrigerator door). Example: I am a good person and do not need to lose my temper at my children, husband, friends, etc.
- Expect positive results.
- Remember that through your thoughts you create the action that produces a result. If your thoughts are health, happiness and prosperity this is what you will experience.
Another way of creating positive change is by visualizations. A visualization is the process of picturing an affirmation in your mind’s eye.
- Visualize in your mind what your life would be like if changed. Example: Imagine yourself happy, for instance, if you are unhappy; healthy if unhealthy; patient if impatient, etc.
- Your visualization must be accurate; use as many details as possible.
- Be patient; as it takes time for new ideas and pictures to manifest themselves in your life.
Once you have mastered these skills you can teach them to your children in order that they may realize their goals and dreams as reality.
As you increase the quality of your self-esteem, you will find that the warm and positive feelings you are experiencing will begin to permeate your interactions with your child. You will find it easy to offer him the same kind of affirmations that you have been learning to provide for yourself.
One important way to help a child create a positive image of himself is to praise the things you appreciate about him. See the good in your child. See that perfect inner being that is always there in spite of troublesome actions, language and behavior which sometimes occur. Give your child as many “Warm Fuzzies” as you can. Alvyn Free in his book, T.S. for Kids, explains about the importance of giving positive strokes to a child and to everyone, regardless of age. He notes that everyone loves to have the good in himself acknowledged. As parents, we sometimes become bogged down in criticizing and labeling our children, however this reinforces negative behavior. Let’s promise to look for and praise the good in our wonderful, unique children.