The next few blogs are going to be about ways to increase a child’s self esteem. This first one will be more general and the following ones will be more specific.
One way to keep the fighting under control in a family is to build up each child’s self-esteem and feelings of worth.
But be warned, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way builds a sense of entitlement and arrogance. In my opinion this is done by never setting boundaries and giving in to everything they ask for. A wise woman once said, “Parents who can’t bear to hear their children cry are going to have hard children.” I recently saw a very sad case of this happening and it was not a pretty sight. In fact, people called those two kids “absolute monsters” and nobody wanted to be around them.
However, I’ll mostly talk about the right way. The better children feel about themselves, the easier it is to defuse the hostility that arises between them. When children appreciate their own abilities, they can use that strength to help other family members, as I’ve mentioned before.
First and foremost, they have to know their parents love them absolutely. I once read an interview with the actor, Will Smith, in Newsweek. He said, “There’s a certain level of confidence that comes from knowing for a fact that someone loves you. It’s not based on whether or not I break a window; it’s not based on whether or not my homework’s done. Just because I’m me, these people love me. So it’s like, I know I’m good. How can I let the world know?”
I believe all parents, if asked what they want for their children, would say they want them to be happy above all else. A high self-esteem is a good way to achieve that. In fact, it can also avoid all sorts of problems later. A child who feels good about himself likes himself, is comfortable in his own skin, and therefore others like to be around him. The end result is he has lots of friends his own age and a better relationship with adults. He doesn’t have to resort to obnoxious behavior to get attention. The first, most overall important ingredient is that someone, usually a parent, is head over heels in love with him. A child psychiatrist once said that the most important aspect of teaching children anything is that “somebody has to be crazy about that kid!”
The fighter, George Foreman, says that he was able to make something of himself when everybody else gave up on him and told him he wouldn’t amount to anything because his mother always believed in him.
In a family with more than one child, it’s especially important to convey respect, even awe, for each child’s individuality. In our house when we were expecting a new baby, we didn’t say, “What is it--a boy or a girl?” We asked instead, “Who is it? Who is coming this time?”
Most parents do love their children more than words can express, but problems arise when this message doesn’t get through. I once saw an Oprah show on parenting that gave some excellent suggestions for ways that parents could let their offspring know they’re loved. One mother said her young daughter was fearful about the first few days of school. So the mother sprayed a little of her own perfume on the girl’s wrist and said, “Whenever you feel worried, sniff right here and you’ll know I’m close by and thinking of you.”
A single mother of two boys said for the past several years she had put small notes in the boys’ lunch bags. Since they never mentioned the notes, the mother wasn’t sure what they thought of them, but she continued doing it anyway. Finally, one day in her older son’s room she found a box with all her notes from the beginning. Her second son then showed her where he’d kept all his notes--in a laundry basket in the back of his closet.
These mothers were creative in getting the message across.
A few ways I’ve found to communicate this love concretely is to 1)pay close attention when your child talks to you, 2)touch them whenever possible, 3)praise them often and correctly, 4)help them successfully accomplish chores and tasks, 5)let them know they are part of something larger than themselves (namely the family), and 5)monitor your TRC (Trust, Respect and Confidence) bank with them.
The next few blogs will address each of these subjects individually.