Monday, April 21, 2014

Nurturing Self-Esteem

A friend of mine posted on facebook that she didn't have time to hide the Easter Eggs for the kid's egg hunt yesterday and so she decided to have the kids hide each other's eggs.  It was a great success and the kids loved it even better than when mom hid the eggs.

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This reminded me of how we need to give our children self esteem.  Many parents of today think that self esteem comes from giving their child praise for everything they do.  While praise is very important, the real way a child gains self esteem is through trying to do things for themselves and eventually learning to succeed at it.  They learn great lessons when parents will let them do things for themselves, mistakes and all.  When a parent teaches a child a skill, and lets them practice, making mistakes and learning from them, and eventually getting better at it over time, the child's self esteem will grow.  This takes more time than praise, and so is a little harder to do, but so worth it.

I remember when we took care of a foster child for a little while.  We taught him how to make himself french toast because it was his favorite breakfast.  He was so proud of himself.  At first it was a huge mess, but eventually we could see the confidence he was gaining just from this one experience.

When you do praise your child for their efforts, make sure it is true....and specific.  Otherwise it will be pretty meaningless to them.  You can always find things good about what they are doing, even if mostly they are just making a mess.  If they are scribbling all over the page they are coloring, you can tell them that you love the colors they chose, for example.  Also, be sure as you are teaching them new skills that you hold back the criticism.  Criticism is a destroyer of self-esteem and relationships.  Teach, don't criticize.  You can say, "You did such a great job cleaning the sink.  Look how white it is.  Now let me show you how you can make the faucet really shiny."

But basically most of the ways my own kids have gained self-esteem is by learning to do things for themselves, understanding their relationship to a God who loves them, and also by having opportunities to develop their talents.  (I will talk about developing talents in another post).

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