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Building your child’s self esteem

Dorothy Corkhill Briggs says, “if your child has high self-esteem he has it made”. Further she states that self-esteem is “how a person feels about himself – a quiet sense of self-respect, a feeling of self-worth’. She emphasises that self-esteem forms the “core of a child’s personality and determines the use he or she makes of his or her aptitudes and abilities” WHAT can we do to improve a child’s self-confidence to increase his self-respect?

FOCUS ON POSITIVESAny strengths and accomplishments should be recognised and encouraged.

A good start is to ask children to list their assets, their good points, their skills and their efforts. This is a concrete demonstration of focusing on positives rather than dwelling on negatives. Approval, attention, appreciation and praise should be plentiful. Positive feedback at every opportunity fosters good feelings. Ridicule should be avoided at all costs and sarcasm has no place in promoting self-esteem. Examples of positive feedback:

  • I appreciate seeing your smiles
  • You were really patient while I was busy
  • Thanks for helping; I admire how hard you are working on your homework
  • It was wonderful how you awaited your turn at supper time
  • I liked the way you helped without being asked

INQUIRING about his feelings and listening carefully communicates that he is really special to you. This leads to a feeling of closeness, which is an immediate antidote to feeling worthless and alone.

ENCOURAGE competency, independence and enjoyment: When a child is faced with a problem or stress, encourage her to use her head and provide help only as needed. Whenever possible, children should be given choices. Their opinions should be respected, encouraged and expanded. Rather than giving solutions, you could offer two possible solutions and as which one suit them better. Children feel better when they accomplish their own goals in a positive atmosphere. They learn to be self-reliant.

PROVIDE warmth and acceptance: High self esteem is directly promoted when children feel “accepted”. Children need to be treated unique and are not be compared to other children. Disapproval of behaviour can be shown but not of the child. Clearly defined limits are necessary, as children feel worthwhile when they are loved within a secure, clearly defined context. If a child performs poorly your emotional support is necessary because they need the feeling that you are on their side rather than another source of rejection.

SPONTANEOUS affection should be displayed frequently as open expressions of love are powerful enhancers of self-esteem. Some parents may feel uncomfortable about having all this responsibility and power, but it needs to be remembered that when very young, the child literally sees life through you.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. All any of us can do is our best each day and that “best” will never be perfect. Children do quite nicely with fully human parents who fall short here and there.


The Parent Centre

Fouzia Ryklief