Building Self Esteem in Children Part I
Column by Tutu and Me
Self-esteem is one’s regard for self; how we value ourselves. Most of the feelings about ourselves were established when we were children. Many people suffer from a low self-esteem, which leads to many other problems in their lives. Low self-esteem could, for example, lead to depression and even a life of oppression and crime as one strives to feel good about oneself. Therefore, it is very important, as caregivers of young children, that we help children to develop a healthy self esteem while they are young.
We are not advocating the exaltation of oneself or teaching children to feel superior to others. This can be very harmful. On the contrary, we are advocating the humble, thankful acceptance of oneself as good and beloved.
At Tutu and Me Traveling School, the staff strives to enhance the self-esteem of children as well as adults. We strive to give positive feedback to children and families, to demonstrate emphatic listening, to encourage children to make decisions about areas and to give children tools for identifying emotions, among others.
Try This at Home:
• Hold and touch your baby during the first year of life. This is crucial. It is your baby’s first most comforting experience with the world.
• Meet your baby’s basic needs (hunger, security, and comfort) quickly, consistently and sensitively. It is impossible to spoil a newborn baby.
• Encourage your child daily with words. It is up to you to build your child up. Words to use include “good, well done, excellent, wow, correct, good idea, clever” and of course, “I am proud of you.”
• Encourage your child daily with your body language: maintaining eye-contact when your keiki is talking to you, smiling, giving thumbs up, or simply hugging them will show beyond a doubt that you are paying attention and that they are important and valued.
• Communicate respect for your child by emphatic listening and dialogue. Emphatic listening means listening to the emotional content of a message. This does not imply agreement. It is possible to empathize and disagree at the same time.
• Focus corrective feedback on your child’s behavior, not on your child. Always make it crystal clear to your child that it is the behavior that you disapprove of, not your child.
• Give honest and specific praise, often: Say “I liked the way you helped clean up the blocks,” is better than saying “you did a good job.”
Remember, wise is the parent who will help their child understand that by their very membership in the human race they are worth a lot!
Excerpts from Families Online Magazine, Sylvia Cochran, “Healthy Self Esteem for Your Child”
Contributions from Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, a program of Partners in Development Foundation. Tutu and Me is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.