By Larry J. Bradley
Our children are experiencing pessimism, sadness, passivity, and obesity at unprecedented levels today. This is happening despite massive self-esteem campaigns and the natural optimism of children.
One of the world’s foremost experts on self-esteem, Dr. Nathaniel Brandon, believes that self-esteem has two basic components. The first is competence – the ability or skill to perform or basically get through the day. Most people either have skill or can acquire it fairly easily.
The second is a feeling of worthiness and deserving to be happy. This is where most people fall short. This feeling of self-worth – deserving to do, have, or become – is nurtured from a very early age and is enormously influenced by parents. This feeling is closely tied to using positive language too, because we begin to frame our child’s world at a very early age with our words and the images they evoke. Feelings of self-worth come from being taught, encouraged, and praised with respect to achieving and accomplishing. What most of us don’t realized however is that the achievements and accomplishments don’t have to be monumental to win your praise and approval.
As Dr. Brandon says, “Of all of the value judgments we made in our lives, there is none more important than the judgment we place on ourselves.” Our self-esteem is the reputation we have with ourselves, and it can only be acquired from within. This is not an instant verdict; it’s a feeling developed over time, a deep intuition about who we believe we are. Nor is self-esteem harmed or bolstered by a single event, choice, or act. Rather, it is developed over a long period, and through a series of choices and decisions. To put it simply, healthy self-esteem is not acquired as a result of anything external; it’s more of a spiritual accomplishment.
I am an adamant believer that people, including children, will not harm something or someone they value, including themselves. I also believe that, for the most part, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If your child is a poor concept of self-worth, most likely one or both parents will be as well.
Self-esteem is critical because it will affect virtually everything about our children: whether they use and/or abuse drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; whom they choose to socialize with and how; their level of education; their fitness and health-related habits; how they look and present themselves to the world; how much money they will make; whether they will become self-employed or work for someone else; how long they will work and what they will do; whether they will marry and whom; whether they will have children and, if so, how they will raise them; where they will live; the car they drive; their level of stability and how they will cope with life; and this is just a partial list.
Developing good habits requires a purpose in life, and purpose requires a healthy self-esteem and a sense of confidence and worthiness.
One of your greatest tasks as a parent is to help your children find and develop this purpose in their lives. To accomplish this, you must be patient, nurturing, and open to change. Self-discovery is a process of living and learning over a lifetime. It’s a journey, not a destination. You, as a parent, are your child’s tour guide.
So what can we as parents do to help our children and society as a whole? Here are some things to seriously consider that will not only help to raise your child’s self-esteem but your own as well.
- To the best extent possible, provide a stable home with structure, love, and discipline.
- When you discipline, separate who your children are from what they do.
- Help our kids learn to be independent thinkers in a rational environment.
- Make sure they see consistency in your behavior.
- Don’t praise your child just to be “cool” or to be their “buddy”.
- Look for, and even create, opportunities to give them honest, genuine praise.
- Get involved with your children in activities that interest them.
- Help them find the lesson in failure, but never carry the failure forward. My dad always said, “Winners laugh and losers learn.”
- Proactively and politely assert your right to be happy and your right to legitimate wants and needs.
Give of yourself to your children. It’s the greatest gift you could ever offer and love them without conditions.
Larry J. Bradley is an author, speaker, personal and professional coach and consultant. He is a business turnaround specialist, certified Self-Talk trainer, NLP practitioner and coach, as well as a hypnosis and time-line therapy practitioner. His areas of expertise include parenting, personal success and management, persuasion, influence and sales. He can be reached at LarryBradley11@gmail.com or at 856-535-7500..