Please welcome my guest blogger Faigie Kobre with a topic that I had started a few months ago — 50 Ways to Develop Your Child’s Self Esteem — but with no ideas in it. I don’t think I even had a single way written yet. Her post is on developing kids’ self-esteem, a gift that gives back that we, as parents, can bestow upon our children.
Four ways to help your child develop amazing self-esteem
Everyone wants their children to have good self-esteem. Most parents, however, seem clueless as to how to help their children acquire this most precious commodity. There are reams of information written about this topic. I can’t claim to be an expert or to have even read a fraction of what is available. A number of years ago though, I did read an amazing book called Your Child’s Self-Esteem by Dorothy Briggs. She goes through many, many points about self-esteem in her wonderful treatise and I am going to share some salient steps to helping your child develop good self-esteem.
What is good self-esteem?
Before we begin, we first need to understand what is good self-esteem.
Most people seem to think that it is supreme confidence. Some think it’s when kids think they are great. Often cocky, braggarts come across as having good self-esteem. The problem is that kids that seem to think they are great, don’t really think so and inside probably don’t think very well of themselves at all.
Someone with good self-esteem doesn’t think they are great. They don’t need to.
When you have self-esteem there is no need to impress others, you just feel glad that you are you. Self-esteem means that you know that you are lovable no matter what, just because you exist. It’s a feeling of knowing that you have something to offer to others without having to prove yourself.
While self-confidence can be broken up into different areas, self-esteem is the overall self-judgment. It comes across as quiet confidence and the willingness to try anything because if you fail, who cares? … you’re still OK.
When children see themselves as losers, they expect to fail and they act accordingly. Kids with high self-esteem rarely act out, they have no need to.
It is so sad how we often unwittingly tend to help with self-fulfilling prophecies. Kids that act out get punished and it becomes a vicious cycle.
If we would only realize that these behaviors are defense mechanisms and cover-ups for poor self-esteem. They are weapons against anxiety, fear, insecurity, and inadequacy.
When my oldest (of 6) was young she was very difficult . She was my first and with a strong personality, the product of my inexperience. She acted out in school and at home and I admit that I did not know how to handle her for a long time. I was getting outside help in dealing with her behavior when I started to realize that I needed to hug her more. Because she was so contrary, it was very hard for me to see past her difficult behavior to do so. Once I did realize how much she needed it and that her behavior was a cry for help, it became much easier.
I must have saved her in time because she turned out to be the most amazing mother.
Behaviors that show poor self-esteem
There are many types of behavior that point to a child’s lack of self-esteem. I am going to address 5 of the most common. Realize that when a child is acting in one of these ways it is a mask for poor self-esteem.
Tattling: Children that tattle need to make themselves feel important. Since they don’t know how to get the approval they need, they figure they will tattle on others. Maybe that will make them look better. Often parents and teachers unknowingly encourage this.
Bullying: Bullying has become a major problem. It was probably always around, but there is a big movement now to curb it. Bullies have lousy self-esteem. Lording it over weaker children makes them feel strong and coves up their inadequacies.
Overeating: Kids that overeat often remember the approval from their mothers when they ate as a child. When they are not getting comfort and support from the people in their lives, food almost becomes that symbol of affection.
Incessant chattering: Kids that talk incessantly are often doing so because they feel empty inside and need to draw attention to themselves.
The model child: How could this be a problem? Who doesn’t want a model child? Children need to be normal, however, and when a child is so compliant and super sweet, they become a slave to the need to be perfect and feel like they can’t be a normal child.
So how much is a child’s self-esteem our fault?
We are our children’s mirrors and mirrors create self-image. Children see themselves as we see them, and the way we relate to them, sort of tells them how to act.
The good news is that we as parents are not totally responsible for our child’s self-esteem. We do play a huge role, however, and even though we (hopefully) do the best we can with the tools we have, there are definite ways that we as parents can damage our children’s self-esteem. Below are some of the many ways for you to be aware of.
- Lack of realistic expectations: Many years ago I wanted to write an addendum to the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus I wanted to add…and children are from pluto (I think it was ousted as a planet right?). My point was to show that children are not born knowing what is the right thing to do. They are coming from a different planet … literally! and need to be shown the right way to do EVERYTHING. When parents have expectations that are too high and kids can’t meet them, they feel their parents’ disappointment and it lowers their self-esteem.
- Borrowed standards: Whoever said that boys don’t cry, or siblings should only love each other? These are standards we either get from our past or from others and we should be very careful as to what standards we hold up our children to.
- Words have tremendous power: Telling a child that they are impossible, or why can’t they be like their sister or talking about them when they can overhear makes them believe that everything we say is true. Remember they don’t know any better, and we are their mirrors. So if we tell them something it must be true.
- Our own unmet needs and current hunger: Children’s needs differ from ours. Just because we were not good at sports doesn’t mean we have to force our children to excel in them. We have to know who our children are. We don’t want children to fulfill a need that we never fulfilled like being a star student.
- Our own unfinished business: This is very closely connected to our own current hunger. If we had an older sibling and our child reminds us of that older sibling that we did not like, that child may get the full brunt of what we never were able to give our sibling.
So now that we know that loving our children is not enough, what are some practical steps we can take to help them develop self-esteem?
Practical steps to help our children develop good self-esteem
Did you know that by age 5 a child has already formed an opinion about himself? He mirrored what we thought of him, remember?
So if you are a parent of younger children keep these points in mind as early on as you can.
If your child is over 5 and you feel that you made many mistakes, remember “you did the best you can with the tools you have.” It’s not too late and you can use your new tools now to help them. Children that have had poor early experiences can be helped with many genuine, positive encounters.
Don’t forget that there are many, many things that contribute to a child’s good self-esteem. I picked out only four that I thought were some of the most important.
Ms. Briggs spends a lot of time in her book talking about a climate of love that the child needs to be surrounded with. You need to know what that means and you also need to realize that loving your child is not enough ... they need to clearly KNOW they are loved.
There are 4 ways to do this.
- Good consistent discipline
- Good healthy relationships
- Realistic expectations
The interesting thing is that the dictionary term for discipline is The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
That is actually very sad because true discipline does not and should not include punishment. Punishments for the most part should be natural consequences (but, that is not the topic now). [I will get Faige to post on this later, promise!]
I am talking about good, firm, consistent discipline that teaches children limits without anger or punishment. I don’t call time-outs punishment when they are done in the right way and without anger. If by age five, children have already have formed opinions about themselves, then it goes without saying that the type of discipline we give our children when they are young is crucial.
Since children develop self-image by the way we react to their behavior, when we get angry or scream a lot, they feel “like bad children” and act accordingly.
The more effort you put into this when they are younger, the more it will pay off. Read, go to therapy, do whatever you need to do to help yourself and your children with this. (One of the best books that I discovered on discipline in time for my younger children was 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 but, avail yourselves of the great books and websites that are out there about this topic.)
Stanley Coopersmith a well know child psychologist says “Good self-esteem comes from the quality of the relationships that exist between the child and those who play a significant role in his life”.
Our children need genuine encounters with their loved ones. Make sure that they are surrounded by people that they can interact with in loving ways.
For today’s day and age, this is probably one of the more important ones. There are such a plethora of distractions that everyone is dealing with that focus has become a major problem. Focus on your children. Listen to what they are telling you. Put away the cell phones and iPads when you are spending time with them. Look into their eyes.
I know someone who has a bunch of kids. She used to yell a lot when they were kids. Even though they are not all married yet, they may carry these habits to their own children. Yet, they all seem to have good self-esteem. I’ve often wondered about this and then remembered how she would hyper-focus on her kids when they would talk to her and how her attention to them was undivided. This may have been the key to their developing good self-esteem. They may not be the most patient, but they are all quite confident. (This is not to say go yell at your kids, it’s just to bring out a point).
Know what to expect of your children age-wise and personality-wise. If you don’t know, then speak to experts. Read and don’t hold them up to anyone else’s standards. This way you will come to truly value them and they will know it.
Those four points are, as I see it, the most crucial points to helping children develop good self-esteem.
If you are aware that you yourself have poor self-esteem, also remember that children are our mirrors and will copy us. The best way to help in this situation is to work on developing your own self-esteem so your children will mirror what you become.
Good luck in this very important and valuable mission!
Faigie Kobre a past early childhood teacher and director is a mother of 6 and grandma of 4. She is the owner of the website EduArt4 Kids.com. She tries to teach parents and teachers how to give children art that makes them better learners and develop good self-esteem. To explain how the right art makes a big impact on learning and self-esteem she has 2 FREE reports that you can go get now.
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