Thursday, June 26, 2008

Your Child's Self-Esteem

I recently read an article about children's self-esteem and it had so many good points. It was written by Dr. James Dobson, a well-known Christian author and speaker, from his book entitled "The New Hide or Seek". I wanted to share a few excerpts with you that convicted me and made me pause and think about how I word things to my children.

"The first step in building your child's esteem is to examine your own feelings--to even be willing to expose those heretofore unconscious guilt-laden attitudes...are you secretly disappointed because your child is ordinary? Lacks appeal and charm? Do you think he is dumb? Was she born during a difficult time, imposing a financial and physical stress on the family? Did you want a girl instead of a boy or vice versa? Do you resent the freedom you lost or the demands a child places on your time and effort? Does he embarrass you by being too loud or too withdrawn?

You can't teach a child to respect himself when you dislike him for reasons of your own. A sizeable portion of your chlid's self-concept emerges from the way he thinks you "see" him. He watches what you say and do with interest. He is more alert to your "statements" regarding his worth than on any other subject. He reads your unspoken and perhaps unconscious attitudes.

The child convinced of parental love and respect is inclined to accept worth as a person. Many children know intuitively they are loved by their parents, but they do not believe they are held in high esteem. This seems so contradictory. A child can conclude: Sure they love me because I'm their child--I can see that I'm important to them, but they are not proud of me as a person. I'm a disappointment to them. I've let them down. I'm not turning out as they had hoped.

It's easy to convey love and disrespect at the same time. You are tense when your child speaks to guests or outsiders. You butt in to explain what he was trying to say, or laugh nervously if the remarks sound foolish. When someone asks him a direct question, you interrupt and answer. You reveal your frustration when you are trying to comb his hair or make him "look nice" for an important event. He knows you think it is an impossible assignment. If he is to spend a weekday away from the family, you give him an extended lecture on how to avoid making a fool of himself. These subtle behavious are signals to the child that he must be supervised closely to avoid embarrassing the whole family.

Disrespect can be read into your manner, though it is framed in genuine love. The love is a private thing between you, whereas confidence and admiration are "other" oriented, having social implications to those outside the family.

Loving your child, therefore, is only half the task of building self-esteem. The element of respect must be added to counterbalance the insults of society. Unless somebody believes in the child's worth, the world can be a cold and lonely place indeed."

(I've experienced middle school with my daughter and can wholeheartedly agree with the coldness).

I hope this gave you pause like it did me.

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