Friday, October 16, 2009

How Do You Build a Child's Self Esteem?

I've been asked this question twice this week. A good friend who has gone through the fire of low self-esteem issues herself, in her youth, told me this:
"You can't build a child's self-esteem by giving him praise. Praising him is not a bad thing, but it is only through experience of having accomplished something that a child will grow in self-esteem."
Today I said the same thing to my husband, who expressed concern about our task of parenting our children. Remembering my friend's wisdom, I said that I believe we should praise a child for making an effort, because making an effort is worthy, and necessary in order to build experience. I believe we should encourage a child when he experiences failure or frustration, because he's going to need to experience much more of that before success can come. But, other than that, our only job is to place opportunity after opportunity in front of him and challenge him to make that effort again and again; for it is only in taking action, and assuming risk, that one can ever accomplish anything. And it is the accomplishment that becomes the fertile soil where a sense of self-worth can grow.

Finally, parents and other caregivers of children can give them a gift that makes their journey easier, their failures and setbacks more bearable, and the triumphs more sweet -- the Truth, from which comes faith.  The truth is they don't have to struggle alone.  The truth is they are cared for and loved and worthy of love.  The truth is their efforts matter and are counted.  The truth is they are the future of us all.

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