(Stock Photo/Andrew Rich) we want our children to have a healthy self-esteem, but healthy means they see themselves in a correct light.
Building a Healthy Self-Esteem
JUNE 07, 2007Craig Harris, HappyNews ColumnistFew things are more important to a child’s personal growth than having a healthy self-esteem. When a young person feels good about himself, he can say yes to good choices and no to the bad ones. He can resist peer pressure. He can stand up for himself. He can look his teachers and friends in the eye. He will generally choose better friends and mates, and make better career and education choices. He will try to succeed with confidence that he will. And when he fails, he is able to pick himself up, brush off his pants, and try again.No doubt about it; self-esteem is very important and all parents want their children to possess it in healthy measure. We help our children have a strong sense of self by confirming their emotions. If we dismiss their feelings, that hurts their sense of self-worth, but if we encourage them to express how they feel, that builds them up. Stopping what you are doing and looking your children in the eye will confirm them as a person and encourage them. Complimenting their appearance will boost their self-assurance. Praising a child also builds his confidence. When he excels at something, we notice it and reward him with admiration. Some parents are never satisfied with their children’s efforts and that can crush them. Children will feast on praise and work hard to get more and more of it. This is a wonderful, upward spiral of success and applause.But there may just be a down side to all of this self-esteem building. It may be that the pendulem needs to swing back a bit. It may just be that we are so concerned that we build up our children, we neglect to allow them to experience failure at all. That’s no good. It is not doing our children any favor to praise them for mediocrity. Maybe we need to simply say, “nice try”, instead of “very good” when the effort clearly was not there. Maybe we shouldn’t call our children Michelangelo every time they draw a stick man standing by a stick house.Children are smarter than we sometimes give them credit. They know when they really deserve our acclaim. If we give it too liberally, we make ourselves out to be either liars or fools.Should we stop praising their efforts, then? No, not at all. Again, we want them to have a healthy self-esteem, but healthy means they see themselves in a correct light. If they think they are the next Beethoven simply because they’ve mastered Chopsticks, their self-esteem may be a little out of whack. That’s no more healthy than a low esteem. Instead, we encourage them to keep trying and to realize that no one can be the best at everything.What we really want, then, is for our children to be balanced, well rounded, and with a healthy self-concept. We don’t want them to be spoiled or over-confident to the point no one can stand them. We want them to be appreciative and humble, but with the confidence to storm through life with their heads high. They know the sting of failure and understand the concept of guilt and shame, but they use that to move forward and become better.We want our children to know that they will fail if they do not work hard or study. That’s the reality of life. We don’t just want our kids to have a good self-esteem, we want them to have a healthy one. We want them confident, balanced, humble and ready to face the challenges each day brings.
You can contact Craig Harris at http://lcraigharris.blogspot.com.