“Parents need to fill their child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.” ~Alvin Price
Self- esteem is an important component of our mental health. It is one of the most essential ones. It is how one feels about herself or about how one perceives oneself as a person. If you are happier with the person you are and you are proud of the choices and decisions you take in your life, you tend to have high self-esteem. On the contrary, if you make choices that are not in sync with your core values it makes you unhappy within and it finally lowers your self –esteem.
No one is born with self –esteem, it is built over time and begins growing up in childhood. Parents contribute a lot by providing rich exposure and experience to children which leads to building their positive self-image, confidence and eventually high self-esteem. Each time the child faces any difficult situation, he or she should be given the freedom to make decisions and accept the consequences gracefully. Each instance when the children feel that they did something right and something that made them feel happy and proud within themselves their self-esteem gets a positive kick. And each positive experience leaves them with higher morale and greater confidence in themselves. Children start developing self-esteem from the time they are babies and it is important for the parents to help the children in this process. Feeling loved by the parents and people around them, feeling safe in their surroundings and always knowing for sure that there is somebody at their side helps children push their self-esteem to newer heights. Resilience is built when children get to act independently with the reassurance that they can fall back to their parent’s support if they do not succeed. We as parents need to pay attention, show love and support, encourage our kids to try again, being always proud about their effort rather than their success and appreciating their efforts more than their smarts.
Children with higher self-esteem feel confident, accepted, and loved. Their self-image and self-belief are higher because of which they never fear failures and are always motivated to take chances and try again. So how do we work towards building it in our children?
Sherie Newman, a teacher at Child Development and Family Center in the Northern Illinois University wrote an article on the importance of self-esteem and wrote the following five steps that every parent and teacher can take to build self-esteem in children:
- Listen to and acknowledge your child’s thoughts and feelings.
- Create situations that help your child experience success, not failure. Set clear and appropriate expectations, offer reasonable amounts of help, provide adequate incentives and remove obstacles.
- Give your child a feeling of reasonable control over their life.
- Reinforce that your child is lovable and capable.
- Show your child that you have a positive view of yourself.
“Children will have greater self-esteem if they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their experiences.” Family and Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University has given guidelines to foster self-esteem in children:
- Look at each child as a unique person
- Keep expectations realistic
- Give the freedom to make mistakes
- Build-in success
- Give encouragement
- Accept children’s unpleasant feelings and teach them how to deal with them
- Give choices
- Give responsibility and expect cooperation
- Keep your sense of humour
We as parents and teachers need to accept the uniqueness of children and need to appreciate their individuality. According to the book Getting it Right with Children, parents and teachers play an important role in a child’s life by teaching them to take ownership of their lives, decisions, choices and reactions. We need to teach them life-recovery skills and help them fight their limitations to get better.
Bringing up an emotionally healthy child should be our priority and the minimum we can do is to make them happy and competent.
I saw a very impactful interview where they said that we should not make our children feel special all the time. Once they are exposed to the world no one is standing out there to make them feel privileged and special for nothing. They will be treated for what and how they are rather than who they are. So, even when we praise them while bringing them up we need to be realistic and logical in the words we use and mostly describe what and why are we appreciating them. You should encourage them to simply try as much as they can, while also focussing on things that make them happy. Also, you should praise the effort that they put into the activity rather than the result or outcome.
It is also important to ban harsh criticism. Saying something like, “You’re so lazy” can be very harmful to the child’s self-esteem. Labelling is something that has to be avoided at all times when dealing with children. Hearing labels can be harmful and demotivating. It is important to get to their level, understand them, connect with them and trying out things with them while pushing them to keep trying. Give them the strength to get back on their feet if they fall if you want them to be resilient and happy adults.
Nothing brings more happiness than celebrating your child’s achievements and this gives strength to the children to move forward with confidence. And when children are confident that they have someone by their side to support them emotionally and practically, they feel safe and secure. But, at times it is perfectly fine for parents to step back and facilitate decision making, experimenting, exploring, struggling and facing consequences. When you as a parent let the children take lead, the children discover themselves, they start to know their strengths and weaknesses and this is what is the building block of self-esteem and confidence. Self-esteem begins after self-analysis and self-reflection and we as parents need to provide these opportunities to our kids if we wish to see them stronger and happier.
I BELIEVE THAT WE NEED TO BUILD SELF-ESTEEM IN OUR CHILDREN BEFORE BUILDING BUNGLOWS FOR THEM.
Guest Author: Vinita Berry
Ms Vinita Berry is the Founder of ‘Priceless Parenting with Vinita Berry’ (formerly, Spectrum, a multi-disciplinary clinic for specially-abled learners). Under her expert guidance and missionary leadership, Spectrum has won the prestigious IDA awards for Accessibility & Assistive Solutions in Education, 2013 and Product/Solution/Service of the year in Special Education Needs (SEN), 2019.
Vinita is a trained clinical psychologist, researcher and certified Cognitive Behavior Therapist who has been actively involved with child development for more than two decades.
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