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Raising Your Child's Self Esteem

Raising Your Child's Self-Esteem

Each child carries a unique picture of self, shaped in large measure by messages communicated by significant people, especially parents. A child is not born with a self image; a self image is learned through experiences beginning from birth.

Self-esteem is the value judgment a person places on self image. This judgment about worth plays a fundamental role in children's growth and development. Children with high self-esteem tend to be more productive, adventuresome and self-assured. They are less likely to consent to peer pressure, frustration or their own shortcomings.

The following suggestions may help you raise your child's feelings of self-confidence and worth.

  • Feel good about your strengths and accomplishments

Your feelings of self-acceptance also affect your child's feelings of personal worth because your child identifies strongly with you. If your level of self-esteem is high, your positive attitudes and practices are likely to contribute to a family environment characterized by confidence, creativity and curiosity.

  • Keep your expectations realistic

Realistic expectations lead to repeated successes which, in turn, build healthy self-esteem. Conversely, unreasonably high parental expectations send negative messages. As a result, youngsters' feelings of personal worth erode as they withdraw in frustration or believe they must be perfect to be loved.

  • Respect your child's unique qualities

Think about the expectations your parents had for you as a child. Consider whether you are placing the same expectations on your child even though your youngster has a different array of needs and talents.

Your child is unlike all others, and should be loved unconditionally for his or her unique characteristics. In other words, it is unhealthy to compare your child with friends, siblings or you as a child. Encourage independence and respect your child's right to fulfill personal potential.

  • Applaud effort, not just outcome

If your child does not make the team, or win the spelling bee, or play the lead in the school play, pat your youngster on the back for trying. While victories are certainly cause for celebration, less obvious achievements should also be noted. Even though your child may not be "first" or "best" or "perfect" in a particular event or activity, he or she should be praised for improving or making an attempt in the first place.

On the other hand, do not overindulge your child with empty compliments. At times you must make negative or corrective statements. When you do, comment on your child's behavior, not on your child.

For example, instead of saying "You're lazy!", say, "I'm concerned about your grade in science. What can be done to improve it?"

Written by Donna Warner Manczak, Ph.D., M.P.H.

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