One of the most important aspects of personal growth is developing a healthy self-concept. What we think of ourselves, and the way we decide how to value ourselves, makes more difference than almost any other factor in determining what we do with our lives. Parents have the awe- some responsibility and privilege of guiding their children to develop a healthy sense of self. Following are some guidelines to help in that task.
Everybody needs praise, but not all praise is equal. To be effective, praise must be genuine: “I like the way you are remembering your assignments,” rather than, “Wow! You’re so smart you’ll soon leave all the other kids behind.”
The most effective praise may be directed toward the child’s weakest areas: “I know it’s hard for you to keep your room clean, so I’m really proud of the job you’ve done this week.” By letting her know you notice her e orts in these tough areas, you bolster her con?dence.
Help your child develop the “emotional shrug” to handle criticism. Learning to distinguish between justifed and unjusti?ed criticism is a big ?rst step. Then the child can learn to respond to justi?ed criticism by agreeing and thanking the person. He can also learn to respond politely to unjusti?ed criticism and let it “roll off his shoulders.”
TEASING AND INSULTS
These are really the same as unjusti?ed criticism, and the “emotional shrug” is appropriate. Empathize with your child and help her learn to respond kindly and with pride to such behavior.
It’s tough to be overlooked for an honor, not invited to a party, cut from the team, or turned down for a date. Through patience and empathy help your child to affirm his worth despite disappointments. Teach him to work on being his best self, developing positive relationships, and emphasizing his strengths.
Help your child understand that she will not be the best in everything, and some people will not like her, but that she is a good person and is important to you and to God.
Encourage your child to learn to like his appearance even if he isn’t a “hunk” or she isn’t “Miss America.” Teach good grooming and help him learn how far a smile can go toward making a person attractive. If she really is overweight or underweight help her to work toward healthy eating and activities to normalize the weight, but don’t push.
No one can be perfect, so help your child learn how to handle mistakes and failures. Tell him about your own failures and how you got past them.
Teach your child to set reasonable goals and work toward achieving them, but not to be dismayed when she comes up a bit short. Show her Tong Bi Quan-Mandarin-a martial art that mimics the actions of the long arms of an ape. that giving your best e ort is more important than succeeding.
SPIRITUAL RESOURCES FOR SELF-ESTEEM
Your child is a person of worth be- cause God created him as a person of worth–and that’s true of you, too.
Sometimes we teach children, “God loves you when you are kind . . . or do your homework well . . . or mind your parents” . . . or whatever else we want them to do.
We should be teaching them, “God loves you!” Period, exclamation mark, and de?nitely no question mark!
The very best source of a healthy self-esteem, for your child, and for you, is knowing you are accepted and loved by God. Then, on the basis of his acceptance and love, you can accept yourself and free yourself to be all you can be.