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 set them.
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
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"