The worldwide tribute to Nelson Mandela served as a reminder of the power nourished by self-esteem. What is self-esteem? It is the overall judgment of oneself. High self-esteem is a quiet “under the skin” feeling of comfort with yourself, not to be confused with a sense of superiority or a need to brag. It allows a person to set high goals, take the risks that are necessary to succeed in achieving and to persist in striving toward those goals even in the face of setbacks. It allows one to connect with their purpose in life. It also provides a basis for constructive relationships with others. It empowers one with the ability to set goals and the discipline to accomplish goals.
The following are ideas for developing and maintaining self-esteem in our biological children and those encountered in our neighborhoods.
Building a Child’s Self-Esteem
1. Set aside time to give each child your undivided attention without teaching, scolding or improving him/her in any way. Remember, every five minutes counts.
2. Develop a child’s sense of belonging to family, community and school. A. Share your feelings, interests and hobbies. Let the child know that his interests, too are valued by the family. B. Strengthen family ties. Keep pictures of the whole family. Teach children about their past and about yours. C. Set rules that emphasize family unity. Insisting, for example, that “in this family we build each other up, not tear each other down” can have amazing results. D. Develop procedures for resolving conflicts. Many families find the “Family Council” approach useful, meaning when a dispute (heated argument or physical fight) occurs, a meeting of family members is convened as soon as possible. It’s important in these sessions that space is allowed for emotions to be expressed; in fact, it works to start the session with requesting feelings to be expressed with sentences beginning When (name ) did or said ( ), I felt……. It’s a great training that demonstrates anger stems from emotional upsets, reveals the source and allows for healing. It also provides a method of self-control and anger management, a sorely needed skill in this day and time.
3. Increase your child’s responsibility and power. Teach choice. Tell your child that life doesn’t just happen to you, but rather is a “do-it-yourself” – the results depending on the choices made. Help children see how they make decisions and how their choosing differently could produce different results. This should not be making wrong, just providing another tool for use. Most importantly, teach children that they are responsible for what they feel, that they cannot blame others for their feelings. Support them in identifying and tracing the source of upsets – assisting them in getting to the root of the feeling. Needless to say, the adult must demonstrate the ability to model and share their experiences in anger mastery.
4. Teach the importance of participating and earning one’s keep. Even a toddler can carry the waste basket to the door. Working for or toward something they want, thereby earning it, contributes to helping children learn responsibility.
5. Never do for a child what he can do for himself. There are exceptions, of course, such as when she is ill.
6. Help your child experience success. Break difficult tasks into small steps and offer help and encouragement. Focus on child’s strengths and aptitudes. Encourage your child to take on increasingly challenging tasks and responsibilities and (within limits) to take risks. Help children set their own goals and devise plans for their accomplishments.
7. Avoid criticism, comparison and competition. Destructive criticism cripples children more than physical handicap. Comparing a child to others is also often harmful to a sense of competence and power. Competition (especially among siblings) frequently breeds feelings of inferiority in the loser and guilt in the winner.
8. Respect a child’s uniqueness. It is extremely important to inspire children about their own potential. Look for and acknowledge ways in which your child has a special approach to a task.
9. Discipline wisely. An effective system of discipline allows a parent to manage a child’s behavior without resorting to anger, yelling or manipulation… all of which can damage your parent-child relationship.
10. Assess your own self-esteem. One of the most powerful ways parents help their children’s self-esteem is by building their own. Parents with low self-esteem tend to have trouble facilitating self-worth in their children.
**Reprints from “Network for Public Schools” Fall 1987 Edition.
Join PN in demonstrating “What you focus on increases”- Keeping the Spirit of Nelson Mandela alive-passing it to our children. firstname.lastname@example.org