What, exactly is self esteem? Self esteem is the way we think about ourselves. Do we think of ourself as being a good person, someone who is doing the best we can to do the right things in life? Are we comfortable with who we are? Are we doing our best at learning better ways to accomplish ordinary things? Do we promote a good feeling about ourselves to others we come in contact with? Can we learn from our mistakes, and not belittle ourselves or downgrade our self? If so, we have good self esteem, we are confident about our place in life, where we are headed and how we are getting there.
To help our children feel good about themselves, and their place in this life we must be able to help them:
1) Feel they are worthwhile and recognize that their behavior benefits others.
2) Learn to find positive ways of gaining attention.
3) Recognize that positive reinforcement is more effective in working with children, than negative reinforcements.
4) Respect shown for others in turn gains his respect from his parrents.
5) Parents are people too. We can make mistakes, but recognition combined with listening may help reestablish a good relationship between parent and child.
We need to recognize when our remarks to our children may steer them away from us, and avoid making those mistakes in the first place. For example, if you have a child who always has to be reminded to wash his hands before coming to the dinner table, then one day manages to remember by himself, remarks like, "Wow! I didn't think you would ever remember to wash your hands!" would make the child feel less apt to repeat the good behavior.
A manipulative remark would be something like, "Well, it's good to see you managed to remember to wash your hands. Now you can sit and enjoy your meal with clean hands. I am so happy you remembered to wash your hands this time." He has already enjoyed his previous meals, even though he had to get back up from the table to go wash. Him remembering to wash did not change that one bit, and he knows it.
A more appropriate remark would be something like, "I am happy to see you remembered to wash your hands. Now you can stay in your place, rather than go take care of it." The child is more apt to feel he has accomplished something worth repeating, and do it again.
Expressing our love to the child is a very important part of building a good self esteem. Love needs to be spontaneously and unconditionally as the child needs it. It should never depend upon his behavior. Your love does not increase or decrease with your child's behavior. Feeling frustrated and angry, has nothing to do with the love you feel for your children. Therefore, expressing to your child your love for him should not be subjected to his performance of good behavior. A child will learn to feel worthwhile, and good about himself, if he feels acceptance and knows his parents love and care about him.
The way we speak to our children will generate feelings of self worth, or rejection. For example if you are quick to point out the negative things the child does, and not give recognition for the good, he will soon feel no matter what he does, it won't make a difference, so why try? If we bark out do this, do that, and are gruff, angered, and resentful in the way we speak, we are telling our children, "You are not a good person. I am not happy with you." Foe example, you need help in bringing in the fire wood. Your child is happily playing a game with his older sibling. You reamark in a dry, manner, "Gregory, go bring in some wood.", the child may resent being asked to do the job and may wonder if he has been spoken to without hearing it. After repeated situations, he will begin to think he is wrong no matter what he does. On the other hand, he won't mind the interruption, and will gladly bring in the wood to be of help to you. He will know that his efforts are going to be returned in the manner you treat him.