Much has been written about the importance of each child developing a positive image of himself. One reason for this emphasis is that educators have found that children who do not like themselves suffer in the educational system. An important aspect of self-esteem is self-confidence. Children who lack self-confidence spend so much of their energy fighting anxieties within themselves that they have no energy left over for the business of thinking, learning and doing. For such a child, a new experience is not exciting, but threatening. Because he thinks that he will fail at whatever he attempts, a child without self-confidence gives up on himself and does not achieve.
Fortunately, most parents love their children and show it. Nevertheless, from time to time children do suffer insecurities whether they are caused by the presence of a new baby in the home, a move to a new house, a divorce or a parent spending less time with them than they are used to. Even the most devoted parents has a bad day now and again. At these times parents should pay careful attention to their own energy levels and also to the feelings of their children.
There are many ways to show a child love –
- Cuddle him and look into his face while sending him that look of love that you felt when he was new and you were feeding him. Remember and consciously save this feeling of love. Use it when energy levels are low or if you find a particular behaviour difficult to tolerate.
- Emphasise with him by putting yourself in his shoes and saying how he feels
- Share an experience with him in which he rediscovers how important he is to himself and you.
Another important aspect of self-esteem is learning how to express one’s emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, fear and frustration are feelings that everyone has and it is important for a child to know that. This is where modelling empathy serves a double purpose. The skill of being able to “get your feelings out” will prevent the internal turmoil that builds up when emotions, especially the angry ones, are bottled up inside.
Pride is another point. The sense of accomplishment that one feels when you have done a task or made something all by yourself is a feeling that children should know at an early age. The skills of planning an activity, working on it and completing it develop the sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction.
A child who has a sense of his own esteem delights in learning that there is no one else in the whole world who is exactly like him. Only he looks a certain way, has a certain family, likes and dislikes certain things. All these facts add up to his own identity – a unique person with the potential for freedom and happiness.
Concurrent with the discovery of his own special self is the discovery that other people have selves too. They also count. Friends, family, relatives, people on the TV – they all have their own personalities, own ideas, own possessions and own preferences. In this world of many people, what could be more important than the development of skills that will help children get along with others. As a parent, you are in the best position to help your child learn the skills of co-operation, negotiation and patience as well as basic attitudes of honesty, fairness and compassion. You are their first role model for social and emotional behaviour in these formative years. They will always model what they have heard and seen most often.
This also includes what they watch on TV. Careful screening and monitoring of their viewing is essential. They are easily confused by double standards, which they might see on TV as opposed to your behaviour at home. Which do they see the most? We as educators are seeing more and more dramatic and aggressive behaviour pattern emerging as a direct influence of TV. Spend time observing your child’s social and emotional responses. Are they yours or are they what he has seen on the TV?