The higher your self esteem, the more durable you are. As such, self-esteem includes the feelings and thoughts that individuals have about their competence and worth, about their abilities to make a difference, to confront rather than retreat from challenges, to learn from both success and failure, and to treat themselves and others with respect.
Healthy self-esteem and self-efficacy were promoted through supportive relationships. Accordingly, parents may help their children develop self-esteem by focusing not only on their areas of vulnerability, but also on their strengths. Parents must learn to identify and reinforce each child’s strengths to motivate the child to venture forth and confront the tasks that have previously been difficult.
The following are few ideas how to help children build healthy self esteem:
- Teaching Responsibility by Encouraging Contributions
Children develop their sense of achievement and pride by providing them with opportunities for assuming responsibilities, and by allowing them to make a contribution to their home, school, or community environments. For example: tutoring younger children, or painting murals on the wall, or assisting in the school office, or bringing messages to the office, or going on Walks for Hunger, helps them to feel that they are making a difference, and serves to reinforce their motivation and self-esteem.
- Teaching Decision-Making & Problem-Solving Skills & Reinforcing Self-Discipline
An essential ingredient of high self-esteem and resilience is the belief that one has control over what is transpiring in one’s life (positives and particularly negatives). To acquire this attitude of ownership, children need opportunities to learn and apply decision-making and problem solving skills. This can be done by involving children in discussions of how best to solve problems, or enlisting their input in the development of rules and consequences that affect their lives, or asking them to do research on a particular project. These kinds of activities help children to feel empowered.
- Offering Encouragement & Positive Feedback
Self-esteem and resilience are nurtured when caregivers communicate realistic appreciation to children and help them to feel special. By doing so, we become the “charismatic adults” in their lives. Spending “special” time alone with children, or writing them a brief note of appreciation, or recognizing their accomplishments (not just academic achievement) are examples of this strategy.
- Helping Children Deal with Mistakes
The fear of making mistakes and looking foolish is one of the greatest obstacles to develop self-esteem and resilience. Children with school problems often feel defeated and readily retreat from tasks that may lead to failure. Parents must help children to realize that mistakes are an important ingredient in the process of learning. Parents can do this in various ways, such as responding to children’s mistakes by showing them the correct way to solve a problem and not by saying things like, “Are you using your brains?” or “You always fail at things!” Parents and teachers discuss the value of mistakes and can share memories of their own anxieties about making mistakes when they were students and involve the class in a discussion about the best ways to insure that no student will be nervous about making a mistake. Placing the issue about the fear of making mistakes out in the open typically serves to lessen its potency, thereby increasing opportunities for learning.
In general, resiliency is linked to a sense of optimism, ownership, and personal control. Parents can serve as the “charismatic adults” in children’s lives – believing in them, and providing them with experiences that reinforce their feelings of self-worth. This is a wonderful gift parents can offer, a priceless gift that will last a lifetime.
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