Building Healthy Self-Esteem

Current events are once again influencing my blog. I continually look at choices that adults make in life and wonder what we can do as parents, grandparents, and educators to impact our children to make healthier choices.

I was particularly moved when I read this quote by actress Demi Moore: “What scares me is that I’m going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me…and that I wasn’t wanted here in the first place.” Wow! A life of glamour, fame, beauty, and riches…and yet inside, she fights a real battle with self-esteem.

How do we build self-esteem in our children from the beginning? How do we give them the stability they need to navigate life with confidence and poise when adversity comes their way?

Babies are not born with tormenting thoughts about how ridiculous the bib looks on them. They don’t worry about their weight and thus limit themselves to only a few bottles a day. Those of us around babies are responsible for every message they receive as they age. But sometimes it is the more subtle things we do or don’t do that affect our children’s self-esteem.

1.     Did you know that attending to your baby’s cries in a timely manner sends a message that he is important to you? Soothing, comforting words tell him he matters and begins building his self-esteem. While an infant cannot communicate verbally, he deserves to hear words of affirmation. Begin early describing your feelings and the world around him. He knows the sound of your voice—it’s been with him always. Don’t wait until he can communicate back with you. Use words of affirmation liberally from the day he is born.

2.     Always offer reassuring words without mockery or teasing when your toddler is afraid, even if the fear is unfounded such as being scared of the vacuum cleaner. Her feelings matter to her, and it is important that she knows that her feelings matter to you. You are building the foundation now for her teenage years.

3.     Preschoolers need coaching on their behavior so correct the behavior while always validating the child. Separating the behavior from the child lets him know that he is always accepted even when his behavior is unacceptable. Use phrases like, “I know you feel angry, and it is okay to feel angry. However, you may not hit your friend when you are angry. Use your words to tell him to stop knocking down your blocks.” This says, “I am not upset with you. I am upset with your behavior.” Be very careful what you say—your words are more powerful than you think.

4.     Be a good role model. If you talk about how fat, ugly, or silly you are, your child will assume that this is how one should feel about one’s self.

Children with healthy self-esteem are able to solve problems and typically have an easier time resisting negative peer pressure. More importantly, they seem to really have fun in life. Together, we want to work together to give our children the ability to ENJOY the wonderful gifts that life provides. If they are weighed down by negative self-esteem, they are sitting on gifts they cannot enjoy.

Remember that one of the most important roles of parenting is to equip your child for life. Equipping her with healthy self-esteem is one of the greatest gifts you can give her—a gift that will serve her in every area of her life.

Blog written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

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