Mother Magazine Wired Cover

December 27, 1996

Guiding Parents in Satisfying
Self-Esteem Needs in the Child!

By Laurie B. Kobliska

STOCKTON DESK - Every child will eventually come to terms with the world and the people in it. All children will experience frustration, joy, failure, and success in the process of learning to relate to others, learning to read, and in following directions.

While learning to cope with demands, the child has to satisfy self-esteem needs. Through trial and error every child becomes a successful problem solver. Success is the invisible pay-off every child must have in order to feel successful. Parents are successful in helping children satisfy self-esteem needs when they accept the child's efforts and reward the child for making that effort.

We all seem to know the importance of satisfying the self-esteem needs of adults, in work and play. Children have the same need. It is crucial that these needs be satisfied for a person's emotional well-being and mental health.

We know that the idea of 'self' begins to develop very early in life. The idea of 'self' is a major factor in our lives in times of crisis and in coping with routine daily stress.

Self-esteem refers to how the self (body and mind) is viewed. Self-concept, self-image, self-worth, self-respect or self-esteem is how your child feels about himself. How th child values his own skills, talents and abilities is largely the result of the success he has in coping with the world. It is tied to how strongly he values and respects himself.

Your child's genetics, physical characteristics, and innate skills and talents will influence self-esteem development. Experiences at school or performance on the playing field will also contribute. to the development of self-esteem. But the largest influence on a child's self-esteem is yours.

Self-esteem begins very early in a child's life. Long before your child can understand the connotations of the actual words of praise, he has mastered the phonemic sound of words that praise him. The sound of love goes a long way toward communicating what is expected from the child. Your encouragement, support and excitement empower your child to learn, take risks, tolerate frustration, and feel proud of his accomplishments.

It is through the sound of loving words that your unconditional acceptance and limitations of your child as a separate person is communicated and understood from Day One!.

Set the pattern early for acceptance that will help your child establish the important sense of worthwhileness. Every child has the basic human right to positive relationships and successful learning experiences in their early childhood. As life unfolds, the young adult will need to rely on early self-esteem training and successes in order to continue learning and succeeding.

Help your child develop a strong positive sense of personal competency. It is important to self-esteem. If he can recognize and appreciate the impact of his choices and behavior, he will be more likely to view himself as competent rather than a victim of circumstance .

This is important in academics, athletics, recreation, relationships, as well as body impulses and emotions. Your expectations for what is appropriate and your implementation of consistent consequences also influence the development of your child's self-esteem.

Positive discipline is important to the development of a positive sense of self-worth. How can a child learn to feel good about herself and her abilities when she constantly hears "no" or negative statements implying that her efforts or achievements are not good enough?

While it may not always be easy to parent and discipline positively, it is well worth the effort. When an adolescent know they are behaving in a "mature" way and are pleasing important adults in their lives majority of children feel good about themselves

The self-esteem of your teenager is particularly crucial. As he becomes more independent of you, it will be his sense of self-worth, in many instances, that determines his behavior.

Teens with poor self-esteem are more vulnerable to peer pressure and more likely to have depressive reactions and eating disorders. They are at higher risk to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to take risks such as driving dangerously.

Self-esteem determines a teen's investment in their physical health. Cigarette smoking, obesity, and teen pregnancy, for example pose serious problems for adolescents.

Most problems of teenagers are rooted from lack of confidence and self-respect to resist dangerous impulses and negative peer pressure.

Finally, adolescent self-esteem issues are especially important in terms of their likely influence on college and/or career path decisions. It is terribly unfortunate that teenagers who are bright and competent, but with low self-esteem, will often sell themselves short and withdraw from situations that offer opportunities for academic or vocational success.

We all know from experience that people of any age who suffer from low self-esteem can be prone to brag, boast, and bully. This is a maladaptive effort to defend against painful feelings of inadequacy and can lead to even more serious forms of emotional and physical abuse of others.

The most important thing we can do for our children is to be in control of our actions and be patient as our children slowly experience increasing levels of independence and successfully find ways of expressing their own individuality and contribution to the success and the future of the family and community.


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