Parents have a lot to worry about. How can you keep
kids safe when they are out of sight? How do you teach them to withstand the negative influences of peers, movies, competing
ethics and values that vie for their attention nearly everyday? Frequently parents ask me, "How can I know that the kind of
parenting I practice will encourage a strong sense of self-esteem in my child, while at the same time making sure not to overwhelm
him with unrealistic expectations?
These days it is much easier to figure out the best
way to support your child’s developing self-esteem than ever before. Educators have done so many studies on the positive
benefits of nurturing self-esteem in children that there are now clearly-identifiable differences between the family lives
of children who exhibit high self-esteem and those who exhibit low self-esteem.
For example, Dr. Stanley Coopersmith, of the University
of California, discovered that the parents of high self-esteem kids generally demonstrated more love and acceptance of there
children through simple everyday expressions of affection and attention than did the parents of low self-esteem kids. The
latter parents tended to be highly critical and vocally-judgmental of there children most of the time.
At the same time, contrary to what "conventional wisdom"
might suggest, the parents of high self-esteem kids were less permissive, less ambiguous and more consistent about there expectations
for there children’s behavior .The parents of low self-esteem kids tended to be in consistent and unclear about their
expectations. Either they never set rules, or they didn’t follow through with enforcement of their rules when they did
In addition, children with high self-esteem tended
to come from families with an overall democratic tone and practice. They grew up believing that their options mattered, even
when they were quite young. Their parents paid attention to them and to their needs and wants, and took their suggestions
and contributions seriously.
As always, the most powerful tool that you have for
nurturing a positive attitude about life in your children is your own example on a daily basis. You are the ever-present mirror
that reflects back to your children whether the world is basically a safe, loving, positive place, or a frightening , insecure
and anxiety-producing jungle. It is often difficult for parents to accept the responsibility of their own power and influence
over their kids, but the reality is that as the adult, you set the tone for life itself with your children.
Kids look at their parents to serve as a kind of daily
"reality check" to know what shape the world is in. Is it scary or safe? Is it friendly or hostile? Is it basically a positive
or negative in which to live? That is why your own attitude about life is so crucial a factor in determining the internal
sense of security and well being of your children.
In many ways it is like every parent’s experience
with toddlers who fall down. At first when they fall, they simply get back up again. But as soon as a parent makes a big fuss
over the fact that they have fallen, or runs to them to see if they are hurt, the next time they fall they look up to see
if the parent is coming, and the time they are likely to start crying the minute they hit the ground. The child’s experience
of the behavior of his or her parents has taught that child that falling down is scary, unsafe and something to worry about.
Children use the mirror of their parents, along with
the mirror of other children, to gauge their own sense of self. They observe how peers treat them, even as infants in play
groups, and make decisions about themselves as valuable or unimportant, worthwhile or insignificant. As they grow they do
the same with teachers using the kind and quality of the attention that they receive in class to help them determine internal
whether they are "smart" or "dumb," successful or unsuccessful as students.
That is why not only in the early years, but throughout
their lives, the messages that parents communicate to their children about who they are and their internal value continues
to serve as a "self-fulfilling prophecy" that can either instill a sense of inadequacy or help lead your child to a strong
sense of his own value and worth.
What are the differences between a child with
high self-esteem and a child with low self-esteem? You can measure your children’s behavior and attitudes against the
following "Self-Esteem Checklist"