The Importance of Self-Esteem to Children
Helping our children develop strong, healthy self-esteem is one of the most important tasks of parenthood.
Children who develop healthy self-esteem are more likely to be able to adequately cope with the stress and adversity that inevitably occur in adult years.
The child with a good self-concept is also more likely to avoid the many pitfalls of adolescence such as drug involvement, unhealthy relationships and delinquent behavior.
Helping your child develop a positive self-concept can’t be done overnight. Parents need to start when their children are in infancy by establishing a warm, nurturing environment.
In creating such an environment, parents should:
• Relay positive forms of communication far more often than negative forms. Sometimes parents may need to practice “catching” their children doing something right. This may be especially important for children who don’t have a healthy self-concept.
Over the years I have heard many parents say, “My child never does anything right so how can I respond to positive behaviors.” This, of course, is often the core of the problem. The parents believe their child is a black sheep, which results in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Keep your promises. Children should feel they can trust their parents. To instill trust, parents should be consistent with limits and consequences.
• Try to see your child’s mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than failures. Communicate this attitude toward your child.
• Show appreciation and approval for your child. Try to hear the words, but listen for the feelings behind the words, as well.
Preoccupation, “rushed” listening and responding with only yes and no won’t achieve the desire results.
I’m convinced that listening- to what a child has to say is one of the most powerful ways a parent can show respect to their children.
• Keep expectations reasonable and appropriate. Recognize the different developmental stages children go through. Don’t expect a 3 year old to react like a 13 year old.
• Involve your children in decision making and problem solving when possible and appropriate.
• Teach children how to set reasonable, age-appropriate goals for themselves. Help your children see they can make gradual progress toward their ultimate goals.
• Avoid making adverse comparisons between one child and his/her brothers, sisters, or peers. Remind yourself that each child is unique contributions to the family and peer groups.
• Spend time doing things together with your child. I have often talked with parents who believe that the amount of time spent with children matters as long as it is “quality” time. What you do with your child is important but the amount of time is also a significant factor.
Copyright © 1992 Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D.