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The Little Ninja Academy of Martial Arts
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"Self-Esteem Checklist"

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 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"

A child with high self-esteem:


A child with low self-esteem:

is proud of his or her accomplishments in life   avoids situations which require risk taking
can act independently   feels powerless
assumes responsibility   becomes easily frustrated
can tolerate frustrations   is overly-sensitive
approaches challenges with enthusiasm   always needs reassurance
feels capable of taking charge of situations in his or her own life   is easily influenced by others
has a good sense of humor   frequently uses the phrases "I don’t know" and "I don’t care"
can postpone gratification   is withdrawn
seeks help when needed   blames others for his or her failures
is confident and resourceful   is isolated and has few friends
is active and energetic   is uncooperative and angry
is able to spontaneously express his or her feelings   is uncommunicative
is relaxed and able to manage stress   is clingy and dependent
    is constantly complaining
    has a generally negative attitude about life

Many of these attributes can be found in kids with high or low self-esteem at some time or another. However, it is more the overall pattern, revealed through a consistency of attitude and behavior, that generally tells the tale. The list is here to present a guideline for you, to give you something to watch for as you work to encourage a strong sense of self in your own children