Good self-esteem is as crucial to a person as an axle is to smooth-running wheels. So often low self-esteem is the root of poor communication, sibling quarrels, teenage disagreements and feelings of despondency. A child's view of himself can have a positive or negative effect on his life and relationships. The most valuable gifts parents can give their children are love, affection, and a healthy feeling of self-esteem.
With whom will a young teenager associate if he views himself as a loser and failure? Studies show that those who consider themselves "winners" band together and those who consider themselves "losers" band together. Every decision and choice a person makes is determined by self-esteem. People band together and live and deal with others according to the views they have of themselves. Self-esteem also determines which profession and partner the child will choose in the future. It simply influences every decision that is made.
What is self-esteem? It is not what one sees but what one thinks about the things one sees. Ninety percent of a person's feelings of self-esteem is in his head. Everyone knows intelligent people who moan: "I am so stupid. I can not accomplish this." Sometimes very beautiful people complain about their ugly looks. Though they are not failures, dumb or ugly, they feel that way inside. Once such thoughts are imbedded in a person's being, it is very difficult to remove them.
How do these feelings about ourselves arise? A person develops positive or negative self-esteem through his experiences. The way a mother and father interact with a child at an early age greatly determines a child's self-approval. Early childhood experiences influence a child's thoughts of himself; he is either a failure or success.
High self-esteem can be created through achievement. One can earn more or less self-esteem. Productivity, achievement, and creativity cause high feelings of self esteem. Parents can enforce such feelings by saying; "You have done it well."
Feelings of high or low self-esteem also originate from the experienced love in the home. The love of parents must permeate the heart of the child and be understood as affection and love. Though parents can say, "I love you" a hundred times and mean it, if this message does not penetrate through to the child, it is worthless. The child must feel and experience his value.
Positive self-esteem develops through belonging. Every child has the strong desire to belong and be needed. Every child needs a family who cares. Children are very sensitive to their status within the family and often they test their parents to assure themselves they are wanted.
The judgement of the human value in society influences self-esteem, Society does not consider everybody of value; neither does it accept everybody. Praise and admiration are relegated to a chosen minority whose members are blessed from birth with the special characteristics that society values most, namely beauty and intelligence. If one is beautiful then one is valuable. That is why one must stay young and pay any price to maintain beauty. If a person is not beautiful, intelligence can save him from being an outcast. In reality, most of children in our country are average learners. About 22 percent of all children have an IQ of 70-90. They are called "slow learners." Unfortunately such a child will never leave that class. These children should not be discouraged, belittled, or devalued; instead they should be praised for the things they can do.
Negative feelings of self-esteem are hard to erase. A child who constantly hears criticism and grumbling often feels rejected. Never say such things like "Don't you have any eyes in your head, even a baby can see that! Don't you have a brain in your head?" Words can hit a child like a fist. Be careful not to use words that injure.
Beside critical words, nonverbal criticism is painful for the child. A child can tell when a parent is impatient or uncaring. Take the time to listen carefully and intently to children. This gives them self-worth and makes them feel important.
A domineering and dictatorial parent decreases the chances of good self-esteem in a child. In homes where every action of a child is dictated, the child begins to question his ability to do anything himself. He begins to feel ineffective and has great trouble making decisions.
Excessive protecting and guarding of children renders them incapable of handling the disappointments of life. Parents cannot protect children from all of life's problems. Children need to experience "real" life and learn how to deal with the disappointments life offers.
Feelings of rejection occur when parents show a lack of interest in their children. Some parents are too busy or too selfish to spend time with their children. They are interested in their own achievements and only have their own careers in mind. It is sad to say, but some children who are wanted and loved also feel rejected. In these cases the love of the parents has not found the way to the child's heart.
If a child is exposed to the above parenting styles, low self-esteem is inevitable, and the lack of self-esteem will influence everything the child does.
There are techniques for building positive self-esteem in children. Every child should be recognized for an ability or specialty he does better than another. For example, praise a child who plays well with others. Notice when a child shows special athletic abilities. Applaud the child who enjoys reading. Children need affirmation. By the age of eight, every child should feel he has a special quality.
Show unconditional love! Every child has to feel loved and accepted, even if he has done something bad. Let the child know he is not bad, but rather his behavior is bad. Change commands into love messages. For example, if the child's bedroom looks like a battlefield, try to see something good the child has done. Say, "You made your bed so beautifully, Now I am anxious to see if you can clean up the rest of your room just as neatly like your bed." Notice the child doing something good. Do not act like the police trying to catch a speeding motorist. Children should be praised and rewarded for doing something well.
Express anger responsibly! Express anger and indignation about a child's misbehavior in the form of an "I message." For example, "I am very scared, hurt, disappointed ... you could have set the house on fire or hurt the baby. . you must not do this again."
Personal attacks affect a child. Shaking, screaming at, and scolding affects the child and is a selfish response. While it relieves a parent's tension, it cannot undo the child's mistake and such actions only injure a child's feelings.
Affirm and confirm your child daily! Many parents pay more attention to misbehavior than to good behavior. Some children misbehave in order to get the attention they crave. An effective way to deal with this problem is to find something praiseworthy about your child each day. For example, "Today you really behaved at the table!" "You dressed yourself really well today." Such comments reassure good behavior. Children need tons of affirmation.
Mealtimes should be casual and relaxed. Use dinnertime as a time for building up a child's self-worth. Make it a happy time.
Spend time with each of your children—one by one. Parents are busy but it only takes a few minutes to affirm a child. Taking a short walk after meals with dad produces a happy and content child. The bedtime story is important for children. When time is spent with a child, parents impart values.
Encourage children to be independent. Parents often say, "I can do it faster. Let me take care of it." However, the development of a child is being hampered by this attitude. The message he receives is, "You are too slow. You can't do it." The child comes to the conclusion "I am stupid." It is sad that parents repeat this mistake over and over again, even though the children are supposed to learn how to solve their own problems. If they need help, let them ask for it, but first let them try to solve problems on their own.
Respect a child's opinion. Ask repeatedly about your child's opinion. Listen to him with respect. Parents need not fulfill all the child's desires, but by listening they can show the child his opinion is valued.
Children need to be touched. All people need to be touched. During the first two years of life, children must be fed, changed, and dressed. The mother and child enjoy the close touching bond. Yet later the touching becomes less and less, even when the child still craves physical contact. Express affection by stoking the child's back, holding hands, and hugging. Would affection and hugs prevent juveniles from premarital relations? They long for skin contact and if this need is not fulfilled in the family, they look for satisfaction of their desires elsewhere.
Today children sit in front of the television for hours at a time. All too often little time is spent reading. Gone are the days when a child spent the afternoon on a parent's lap listening to a favorite story. Take time to read to children.
Children are "Precious Stones" God has entrusted to us on this earth. Surely, they must be polished, but their "value" they own through and from Christ.
Our responsibility as parents is to help them to become happy, competent, and courageous and aid them in developing Christlike personalities.