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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Nurturing Self-esteem in Kids

Almost all us, have a vision of what our child's future should be like. Often, we create a tunnel vision and strive to herd our children through it. All our responses to them, both positive and negative are based on this.  Most of us don't even realise this. We start hacking at our children's self-esteem very early in their lives. This is really damaging. The hurt follows them right into adulthood and stifles their self-confidence at the most inopportune and often crucial moments.

In creating this tunnel vision, we forget one very significant fact: that our children are individuals with a fertile imagination and a host of dreams and ideas that could possibly be totally different from ours. Our job as parents is to facilitate and guide them. Instead, we thrust our views on them and expect them to simply obey. A child's self-esteem is about how a child sees himself. Whether it is high or low depends largely on how we as parents and all the adults in his life treat him. We plaster kids with all kinds of labels like, "you are a lazy guy", "you never complete what you start", etc. These seemingly harmless ones could be just as harmful as the more hurtful, "you are good for nothing".

"How then"' you may ask "are we to guide our children?". There is no truth in the statement, " Harsh words are just as necessary as medicines. They are both bitter but they make you better". There is no need to use harsh language when dealing with children. It does more harm than good.

First, let us realise that we ourselves are not perfect examples of humanity. Next, do we practice what we preach? How then can we expect our children to be perfect?

When my son was six years old he asked me,"Do I have to always listen to you because I am smaller?" That gave me pause and I started paying more attention to him when he had something to say. I realised then, that his perspective could be just as rational, though slightly different from mine. That was when I understood that children are more than willing to meet us halfway if we can earn their trust and respect.

Getting back to labels, guiding children is easier when we build their self-esteem. Instead of using general labels, we could point out specific behaviour that upset us and explain our point of view. Over the years I have realised that when I shout at my kids, they tune me out. But when I talk to them calmly, they make an honest attempt to look at things from my perspective. 

The added benefits of this approach are
  1. Their self-esteem is intact
  2. They trust us and therefore the lines of communication are open
  3. They are okay with the limitations we set for them
  4. They face challenges and peer pressure without buckling
  5. They understand their own limitation and are not ashamed of it
Their dreams may not be our dreams.  But does that really matter? All that should matter is that they grow into self-confident and well adjusted adults. It is these attributes that will help them weather the reality that is life. Building their self-esteem is the best gift we could ever give them.