Introducing this Page
The purpose of these pages is to consider self esteem, why it is sometimes low and how to establish a reasonable but not excessive level of self esteem in your child
As you might gather from that first sentence we want to aim for balance because certain schools of parenting have so emphasised the need to build self-esteem that parents have sometimes gone over the top and have ended up with thoroughly obnoxious and unpleasant children. We want to help you avoid extremes.
Warning: This is a very long section comprising a number of pages, but that is simply an indication of how important this subject really is. The way you think about this (or ignore it) will determine very much what sort of future you have ahead of you! Questions/Exercises at the end of each section will be applicable dependent on the age of your child. Because of the volume of this page you may wish to copy and paste it or simply download it to read it offline.
1. What is Self-Esteem and Why is it Important?
2. Signs of Low Self-Esteem
Page 8: Three Strategies for Building Self-Esteem
1. Building Self-Esteem through RESPECT
2. Building Self-Esteem by ENCOURAGEMENT
3. Building Self-Esteem by ASSISTING LEARNING
Page 9: Further Strategies and a Danger
1. Building Self-Esteem by SIMPLY LOVING
2. Building Self-Esteem by TURNING NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES
3. Beware Going over the top with self-esteem
4. Recap & Overview
1. What is Self-Esteem and why is it Important?
a) The Fundamentals of Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is all about what we think of ourselves. We can have ‘low' self-esteem when we feel negatively about ourselves which comes from people or life telling us that we're a failure, useless etc. and results in us struggling to cope with life.
We can have ‘high' self-esteem when we feel really good about ourselves which comes when we've been made to feel that we belong, are accepted for who we are, are loved as we are, and are capable which results in confidence and enjoyment of life
(Remember our earlier declared aim: “to raise a happy, healthy, confident, co-operative, responsible child who develops into rounded maturity”)
b) Examples of Self-Esteem Being Attacked
Illustration 1: On a previous page we cited an instance of our elder son following his older sister in class and being put down by the teacher because he did not come up to her expectations. This resulted in him giving up. He felt that nothing he could do would please her and he felt bad about himself.
Illustration 2: When I was a teacher at college, by the end of the first term one student in particular concerned me and I decided to speak to him in a fairly radical way. Let's call him Keith (not his real name). I said to him very gently, “Keith, hear me in the right way, but has anyone ever told you that you're stupid?” He replied, “Yes, my parents are always telling me I'm stupid!” My reply to him was this: “Keith I've watched you throughout this term and I want you to know that you've been fed a lie. You are not stupid; in fact you are quite capable. There are some things you do that you do very well. Generally you lack confidence and that means you tell yourself that you can't do it, or it's going to be difficult, but even then you seem to manage to handle it and come through well.” From that moment he changed and the inadequate, self-conscious late-teenager started being much more positive, confident and capable.
Illustration 3: From time to time I have found myself working with small groups, and often with single parents. I did esteem-building things with them because so many people have a low self esteem. Joking with one group I said, if you take on board all I say in this group, I'll taking you all sky diving in a year's time, if you're up for it! Immediately one of the young women replied, “Oh that's no good, my parachute wouldn't open.” This particular young lady is highly gifted but sees everything negatively, whatever it is, because life has told her that she's no good – and she's believed it!
c) About Beliefs Again
When parents believe in children, they help children believe in themselves.
See the beliefs that get imposed in the examples above:
Illustration 1: If my son had been dropped into life fully mature at twenty, he could have just shrugged off his teacher's negative feelings about him – but he was a five-year-old and five-year-olds aren't mature and they believe what they're told, by word, attitude and body language.
Illustration 2: Keith had listened to his parents and for some fifteen or sixteen years he believed them when they conveyed to him that he was stupid – I mean, parents know best don't they!
Illustration 3: My fatalistic sky-diver had had a variety of knocks in life for which her parents had not prepared her. These knocks told her she was a failure. She didn't have an adequate belief system about herself built in, that could cope with the negatives of life, so now she can't see the quality person she actually is.
Yes, self esteem is very important, and it is built or undermined in childhood.
EXERCISE: Looking back over your own life, can you think of times when negative things were said to you about you, and how did you feel about that? Do you think that experience hinders you today? If yes, what do you think you can do to change that?
2. Signs of Low Self-Esteem
a) Negative Beliefs that Demean
To reinforce what we've just said, take note of the following negative beliefs that people feel about themselves, things you want to avoid in your child:
· I'm a failure · I'm bad · I'm useless · I'm ugly · I'm stupid · I'm not good enough · I'm inferior
· I'm unacceptable · I'm worthless · No one cares about me · No one loves me
b) Visible Signs
Similarly watch for the following visible signs of the negative things people feel about themselves, things you want to avoid in your child:
· hunched shoulders · can't look people in the eye · always excusing or apologising for themselves · uncertainty
· frustrated anger or hostility · brashness and loudness · constantly tired or lethargic · often ill, feeling weak
· unable to accept praise · unable to accept success (It was just a one-off!) · acceptance of failure as normal (Oh that's me all over!) · fear of trying something new · fear of competing because of likelihood of losing
Awareness of these things should help us to see what we perhaps accept as normal ourselves, and give us something to work against.
EXERCISE: Does your child indicate any of the above signs and do you think they might feel any of the negative beliefs? What do you think you can do to change that?
For specific strategies to build healthy self-esteem please continue on to the next two pages
Continue to Page 8
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