How to Raise Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is based on value—specifically, the way in which children value themselves.

Every child has an inherent sense of self. It’s in a social context, however, that the child comes to place self along a “value” scale. Children aren’t born with either high or low self-esteem.

A child learns that he or she has value in two ways. First, someone that the child admires, loves, and re­spects tells the child that he or she is special and valu­able. Second, in the course of appraising his or her own contributions to family, friends, and the larger commu­nity the child recognizes his or her worth.

Child's Self-Esteem

Let’s explore these avenues leading toward the build­ing of self-esteem a little bit more.

A child must hear approval and encouragement from an adult he or she admires, loves, and respects. Here are some statements of approval your child needs to hear from you:

  • “God must certainly have loved us to have given us you for a son.”
  • “Nobody can take your place.”
  • “You are valuable beyond measure.”
  • “Nobody on this earth can fill the place I have for you in my heart.”

These are all affirmations of who a child is—not words or praise for what a child does.

There’s a difference between words of approval for the child and words of approval for the child’s deeds. It’s like separating the sin from the sinner. You may punish or discipline a child for what he or she does, but punishment should focus upon deeds.

I can’t think of anything sadder, or more destructive to a child, than for a parent to say in a fit of rage, “You’re worthless. You’re no good. You’re a mistake. I wish you were out of my life.” And yet, many parents silently convey that message by failing to separate deed from child when they execute punishment or convey their disappointment in a child’s behavior.

It’s a wise parent who says, “Joanne, I’m grounding you for the weekend because you have failed to do what I asked you to do. I want you to learn to follow instructions because I love you and want you to have a successful life. You’re going to have to be dependable to an employer someday. You’re going to have to be able to follow instructions and to be on time. You’re impor­tant enough to me to punish you now, because of who I know you are and will be in the future.”

Your child’s self-esteem will ultimately be defined by your child. Eventually, your child needs to reach the point where he or she says: “I’m somebody to be ad­mired, loved, and respected! I admire, love, and respect myself.”

You can help your child build self-esteem by

  • pointing out to your child instances in which he or she has been honest and fair. “I’m glad you’re an honest person, Joey. No one should be more highly regarded than an honest person.”
  • acknowledging the “giving” acts of your child. “Sharing your toys was a very loving thing for you to do, Tim.”
  • applauding the way in which your child shows re­sponsibility. “I’m very pleased, Jon, that I hardly ever need to remind you to feed your cat. You’re becoming a very responsible young man.”

Child's Self-Esteem

A child who hears comments such as these eventu­ally will appraise his or her actions and note, “I’m doing the right thing in this situation. If I don’t do it, no one will. I’m valuable.”

Or, the child will note, “I’m giving of myself and pos­sessions and that’s good. If I don’t give, this person might not ever receive gifts or compassion from any­one. I have a valuable role to fill.”

Or, the child will note, “I’m showing responsibility. If I don’t take responsibility, perhaps no one will. I’m go­ing to see that this job is done and done right.”

Value connected to self. That’s self-esteem.

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Personality


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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