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Raising Children with Healthy Self Esteem- The Best Gift a Parent can give a child
December 17, 2009
Raising Children with Healthy Self Esteem- The Best Gift a Parent can give a child
PART- I (31st October)
1.1 What is Self Esteem
Let me ask you a riddle.
What is something one can’t touch but it affects how you feel.
New Roman''>One can't see it, but it's there when you look at yourself in the mirror.
One can't hear it, but it's there every time you talk about yourself.
What is this important but mysterious thing? Yes! It's your self-esteem!
Self-esteem means how much you value you place on yourself and how comfortable you are about it..
It isn't bragging about how great you are. It's more like quietly knowing that you're unique and worth a lot (priceless, in fact!).
It's not about thinking you're perfect because nobody is but knowing that you're worthy of being loved and accepted. Thus while you are proud of the positives in yourself, you are also aware of the negatives and have been able to reconcile yourself to your limitations by learning to work around them.
1.2 What it means to have self-esteem. Why is it Important?
Having a healthy self esteem is are not all that common. Almost anyone one encounters is not happy about some aspect of himself/herself. Some people wish they looked different, were fairer or slimmer or taller or richer or more popular. These are people who have low self-esteem, which makes it necessary for them to constantly seek approval from the people around them in order to feel good about themselves. While people with high self-esteem may have similar doubts, in their case they are more fleeting as they have learnt to overcome them by capitalizing on their plus points.
People with self-esteem tend to be more content, they bounce back faster from a crisis. They are not afraid to take risks. They do not waste time worrying about problems, rather they believe in taking action to solve any problems that may crop up. They tend to be more flexible and adjust easily to changing situations. They are not commitment-shy when it comes to relationships because they are not uptight about compromising and giving of themselves.
Good self-esteem is important because it gives you the courage to try new things and the power to believe in yourself. It lets you respect yourself, even when you make mistakes. And when you respect yourself, adults and other children usually respect you too. Having good self-esteem is also the ticket to making good choices about your mind and body. If you think you're important, you'll be less likely to follow the crowd (e.g. smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex ) and do something dumb or dangerous. If you have good self-esteem, you know that you're smart enough to make your own decisions. You value your safety, your feelings, your health your whole self! Good self-esteem helps you know that every part of you is worth caring for and protecting.
Thus a child or teen with high self-esteem will be able to act independently, assume responsibility, take pride in his/her accomplishments, tolerate frustrations, attempt new tasks and challenges, handle positive and negative emotions, offer assistance to others.
On the other hand, a child with low self-esteem will avoid trying new things, feel unloved and unwanted, blame others for his/her own shortcomings, feel, or pretend to feel, emotionally indifferent, be unable to tolerate a normal level of frustration.
PART II (7th November)
1.3 How Does Self Esteem Develop ? How the Child Get Self-Esteem
Parents play a very important role in giving their children a sense of self-worth. This is because for a larger part of their formative years especially between the ages of 1-7, children derive confidence and a sense of who they are from the way their parents treat them. Babies don't see themselves in a good or bad way. They are not conscious of things like colour, weight, looks etc. Instead, people around a baby help him/her develop self-esteem. How? By encouraging the baby when he or she learns to crawl, walk, or talk. They often say, 'Wow, See what babies doing!” When people take good care of a baby, that also helps him/her feel loved and valuable. Thus the foundations of self-esteem are laid early in life when infants develop attachments with the adults who are responsible for them. When adults readily respond to their cries and smiles, babies learn to feel loved and valued. Children come to feel loved and accepted by being loved and accepted by people they look up to. As young children learn to trust their parents and others who care for them to satisfy their basic needs, they gradually feel wanted, valued, and loved.
Thus the perceptions of how the important adults in their lives judge them is vital to their self esteem. The problem is that families, communities, and ethnic and cultural groups behave differently in what they judge/value. Some may emphasize physical appearance and that being fair is desirable and being dark is not, and some societies may only value boys and not girls etc. Thus stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are factors that may contribute to low self-esteem among children. For example, in families and communities that value athletic ability highly, children who excel in athletics are likely to have a high level of self-esteem, whereas children who are less athletic or who are criticized as being physically inept or clumsy are likely to suffer from low self-esteem. In a similar way the girl child is often subjected to feelings of being unwanted or inferior to their male siblings.
Self-esteem is also related to children's feelings of belonging to a group and being able to adequately function in their group. When toddlers become preschoolers, for example, they are expected to control their impulses and adopt the rules of the family and community in which they are growing. Successfully adjusting to these groups helps to strengthen feelings of belonging in them. Having strong self-esteem is also a very big part of growing up. As you get older and face tough decisionsespecially under peer pressurethe more self-esteem you have, the better.
As the child gets older, they can have a bigger role in developing their self-esteem. Achievements like getting a good grade on a test or making the cricket/football team are things the child can be proud of.
A child's family and other people in his/her life like classmates/teammates teachers/coaches, and can boost his/her self-esteem. They can help a child figure out how to do things or notice his or her good qualities. They can believe in the child and encourage him or her to try again when something does not go right the first time. It's all part of children’s’ learning to see themselves in a positive way, to feel proud of what they've done, and to be confident that there's a lot more they can do.
Other Factors responsible for Developing Low Self Esteem
Sometimes problems at home like a dysfunctional broken family, or an alcoholic or abusive parent or a home where there is much shouting and yelling at home can affect the development of self-esteem.
Other times, a child's self-esteem can be hurt in the classroom. A teacher may make a child feel stupid and classes at school can seem so hard that they can't keep up or get the marks they'd hoped for. This can make them feel bad about themselves and hurt their self-esteem.
Sometimes there is a bully who says hurtful degrading things or labels the child as a loser and the child develops a fear or an inferior complex.
For some children, If a child moves to a new school and doesn't make friends right away at the new school, he/she might start to loose confidence and feel insecure.
Children whose parents divorce also may find that this can affect self-esteem. They may feel unloved or to blame for the divorce. This can make them feel bad about themselves and hurt their self-esteem.
A child who feels too fat or too thin may start thinking that means he or she isn't good enough.
A child who's dealing with an illness (like asthma), or disability (like polio) might feel different and less confident than others.
Puberty is another time when because of hormonal, physical changes every adolescent goes through a period of self doubt.
1.5 Ways to Boosting Your Self-Esteem(14th November)
Here are a few things that you can try to increase your self-esteem:-
Make a list of the stuff you are good at. It can be anything from drawing or singing to playing a sport or telling a good joke. If you're having trouble with your list, ask your mom or dad to help you with it. Then add a few things to the list that you'd like to be good at. Your mom or dad can help you plan a way to work on those skills or talents.
Mirror Exercise. Remember that your body is your own, no matter what shape, size, or colour it is. Everyday, wake up and look at the mirror and affirm yourself for what you are.Remind yourself you are unique and created and designed by a higher power to be yourself.
Give yourself three compliments every day. Don't just say, 'I'm so wonderful.' Be specific about something good about yourself, like, 'I was a good friend to Jenny today' or 'I liked the way I prepared for the exam” While you are at it, before you go to bed every night, list three things in your day that really made you happy.
When you hear negative comments in your head, challenge them, they are mostly irrational and can be stopped.
By focusing on the good things you do and all your great qualities, you learn to love and accept yourselfthe main ingredients for strong self-esteem! Even if there is room for improvement, realizing that you're valuable and important helps your self-esteem to shine.
For Parents Part-I
Support and Understanding A child's sense of self-worth is more likely to deepen when adults respond to the child's interests and efforts with appreciation rather than just praise. For example, if your child shows interest in something you are doing, you might include the child in the activity, in this way we are validating a child’s interest and making the child feel they count and their views are important. Or if the child shows interest in an animal in the garden, you might help the child find more information about it. In this way, you respond positively to your child's interest by treating it seriously.
Unconditional Positive Regard: Self-esteem is most likely to be fostered when children are esteemed by the adults who are important to them. To esteem children means to treat them respectfully, ask their views and opinions, take their views and opinions seriously, and give them meaningful and realistic feedback without being judgmental.
Being Genuine : One point to make is that young children are unlikely to have their self-esteem strengthened from excessive praise or flattery. On the contrary, it may raise some doubts in children; many children can see through flattery and may even dismiss an adult who heaps on praise as a poor source of support one who is not very believable or some children may develop a habit of showing interest in a topic just to receive flattery.
Catch a Child Doing Good. Parents are often quick to express negative feelings to children but somehow do not get round to describing positive feelings. Parents often think their only job is to correct the child because they are so afraid of him/her going astray. Therefore, they always catch the child doing bad things and forget the amount of good the child does. Therefore, from the child’s view the parents are only policeman him/her feel down.A child does not know when you are feeling good about him and he/she needs to hear you tell him/her that you like having them in the family. Children remember statements we say to them. They store them up and 'replay' these statements to themselves. Practice giving your child words of encouragement throughout each day so these positive affirmations are replayed rather than the negative ones.
Be generous with praise. Use what is called descriptive praise to let your child know when they are doing something well. You must of course be in the habit of looking for situations in which your child is doing a good job or displaying a talent. When your child completes a task or chore you can say, 'I really like the way you straightened your room. You found a place for every thing and put each thing in its place.' When you observe them showing a talent you might say, 'That last piece you played was great. You really have a lot of musical talent.' Don't be afraid to give praise often even in front of family or friends. Also, use praise to point out positive character traits. For instance, 'You are a very kind person.' Or, 'I like the way you stick with things you do even when it seems hard to do.' You can even praise a child for something he did not do such as 'I really liked how you accepted my answer of 'no' and didn't lose your temper.'
1.5 Ways to Boosting Your Self-Esteem 21st November
For Parents Part -II
Consistent Display of non-judgemental attitude: Children do not acquire self-esteem at once nor do they always feel good about themselves in every situation. A child may feel self-confident and accepted at home but not around the neighborhood or in a preschool class. Furthermore, as children interact with their peers or learn to function in school or some other place, they may feel accepted and liked one moment and feel different the next. A parent can help in these instances by reassuring your child that they support and accept him/her every time irrespective of what others think.
Exposure to Challenging Meaningful Activities: Young children are more likely to benefit from tasks and activities that offer a challenge than from those that are merely frivolous or fun. For example, you can involve your child in chores around the house that stretch his/her abilities and give pose a challenge to their intellect thus giving your child a sense of accomplishment.
Tolerance for mistakes: Children hate making mistakes it is especially at such times that they might feel low or dejected. As a parent, it is important at this time to show a high tolerance for mistakes and demonstrate it is ok to make mistakes and mistakes are a necessary path to learning and mastering something.
Making the Child Feel Responsible: Children love to take charge of things, which make them feel like adults. Parents can delegate small achievable tasks to their children such as choosing their own clothes for the next day, packing their bag, laying the dinner table, feeding a pet, minding their younger siblings. These situations provide structure as well as some freedom because of choices of how to go about it, Thus the child feels empowered, worthy and useful and an important part of the family.
Avoid criticism that takes the form of ridicule or shame. Sometimes it is necessary to criticize a child's actions, and it is appropriate that parents do so. When, however the criticism is directed to the child as a person it can easily deteriorate into ridicule or shame. It is important to learn to use 'I statements' rather than 'You statements' when giving criticism. For instance say, 'I would like you to keep your clothes in the proper place in your closet or drawers not lying all over your room;' rather than saying 'Why are you such a lazy slob? Can't you take care of anything?'
Separate Behaviour from the Person whilst correcting :As parents it is important for the child to realize that their behaviour might be wrong and the parent might be upset about the behaviour but that they still are precious and valuable as children. This is similar to pardon the sinner not the sin.
Teach your child to practice making positive self-statements. Self-talk is very important in everything we do. Psychologists have found that negative self-talk is behind depression and anxiety. What we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave. Therefore, it is important to teach children to be positive about how they 'talk to themselves.' Some examples of useful self-talk are: 'I can get this problem, if I just keep trying.' 'It's OK if our team lost today. You all tried your best and you can't win them all.' 'It makes me feel good to help others even if the person doesn't notice or thank me.'
Teaching them to Handle Peer Pressure. When children develop stronger ties with their peers in school or around the neighborhood, they may begin to evaluate themselves differently from the way they were taught at home and they become increasingly sensitive to the evaluations of their peers. A parent can help their child by understanding their concerns without discounting them and while encouraging them to build healthy friendships, the parents themselves are clear and consistent about their own values and enforce consistent discipline while keeping the lines of communication open about experiences outside the home.
Coping Skills in Handling Defeat: You can help your child develop and maintain healthy self-esteem by helping him or her cope with defeats, rather than emphasizing constant successes and triumphs. During times of disappointment or crisis, your child's weakened self-esteem can be strengthened when you let the child know that your love and support remain unchanged. When the crisis has passed, you can help your child reflect on what went wrong. The next time a crisis occurs, your child can use the knowledge gained from overcoming past difficulties to help cope with a new crisis. A child's sense of self-worth and self-confidence is not likely to deepen when adults deny that life has its ups and downs.
Conclusion Self Esteem is the most important gift a parent can give their child. Parents can play an important role in strengthening children's self-esteem by treating them respectfully, loving them unconditionally, being genuine with them, understanding and taking their views and opinions seriously, and expressing appreciation to them. A child who has healthy self-esteem is happier, more creative, better adjusted, more confident and resilient and less likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol, sex etc.
Unfortunately although parents might love their child very much because of various factors like stress too high expectations etc. the child might not have developed a healthy self esteem. If you think you or your child has low self-esteem, try talking to a counsellor you trust about it. He or she may be able to help you come up with some good ideas for building your self-esteem
By Karl Pinto Desousa
Director , Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Listening Ear Counselling Clinic - “A Safe Place to Grow”