Few things can warm a parent’s heart more than seeing a genuine smile of delight on the face of their child who is proud of his latest accomplishment. And on the other side of the coin, how heartbreaking it is for a parent to witness their child’s feelings of failure or despair. By the ages of 3 and 4, children are already well versed in what makes their parents happy, what pleases them most and what they are capable of doing. What is most important for a child is not pleasing their parents, but taking pride in their own accomplishments. They will achieve greater success in life and with relationships with others if they are happy with themselves – owning a healthy self-esteem.
Children with a positive acceptance of who they are can assume responsibility more successfully and can tolerate frustration and failure more readily. They are willing to attempt new tasks and challenges with greater ease. And they are also better able to handle both positive and negative emotions.
Children with low self-esteem may avoid trying new things or be afraid to take opportunities to learn. They may feel unloved or unwanted and blame others for their own shortcomings. They may begin a pattern of putting themselves down and not appreciating their strengths, talents and abilities. Negative forces may easily influence them.
With the multitude of responsibilities that parents have today, it is certainly difficult to balance the needs of everyone in the home. However, there is no more important task than making sure your child feels valued and loved. Listening to them, supporting their ideas and points of view, and encouraging them with positive comments will instill a lifelong feeling of belonging – a “look what I can do” attitude toward the challenges of learning and life!
Fostering independence and taking responsibility for their bodies and environment are key factors in successful learning and healthy self-esteem. Let your children make a positive contribution to the home. Give them simple chores to do that are age appropriate and will set them up for a feeling of success and accomplishment. Involve them in family decisions when you can and let them know that their opinion counts. Help them solve problems, but also encourage them to find simple solutions on their own. Help your child recognize when they have made good choices and decisions – this process will breed more positive behaviors and success. Take time to share special time with your child, looking at photos, sharing keepsakes from early years, and telling stories about them to others. Children need to hear that you are glad they are part of the family. Be generous with your praise, but also tell them- “you must be proud of yourself” for doing something. Encourage them to laugh at themselves, too. They should understand the “balance” of not being too serious about challenging tasks at such a young age.
As a parent and healthy adult, building your own self-esteem is the first step in helping them build their positive image and outlook. Let them see you feeling good and looking positively at the challenges you face – our children learn so much from watching and hearing us deal with life! Gradually, you can build the foundation necessary for that powerful “feel good” attitude about yourself and your child! “Look what I can do” is quite contagious!
by Nancy Nathanson
Prime Time Early Learning Center
Regional Education Director