A strong and healthy sense of self is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child. Building strong self-esteem is the first step. Self-esteem is the name given to the way we perceive ourselves. Our perception is based on our own thoughts and feelings as well as how we perceive others think and feel about us. Our own perception of our ability to achieve also affects our self-esteem. When our perception matches our ideal self, we have a higher sense of self-esteem.
Developing self-esteem takes time and effort. An infant or child must experience secure attachment and a strong sense of security. At the same time the infant and young child must feel she is loved and accepted by others. This starts within your family and extends to friends and acquaintances. Involvement in and acceptance by groups such as school, church, a sport team and community organizations are also important. Without such involvement children feel lonely and isolated.
Children must have a sense of purpose. Identifying and pursuing goals based on interest and ability is also essential. This allows every child to engage with others and channel energy towards achievement and self-expression. This prevents children from becoming resentful and bored or being excessively influenced by the desires of another. These activities allow a child to develop not only competence but also a sense of pride that prepares a child to meet the challenges ahead. This ability to have the personal power and interest to solve problems and set appropriate personal expectations is essential for life long success.
Trust in oneself and in those you love is essential if opportunities for success are to be realized and achieved. One of the components of trust is an understanding of both making and keeping promises. Children must be given the opportunity to keep promises and tell the truth even when the truth is difficult. This builds honesty, responsibility and a respect for the feelings and rights of others. Trust leads to a sense of faith in others and the ability to “let go” and rely on those you trust.
As your child’s ability to pursue a goal matures a sense of commitment develops. A child needs to feel they are able to contribute and participate in meaningful activities. This type of involvement must be authentic and lead to real choices and real decisions. These decisions are age and ability dependent and must be reasonable from a developmental perspective.
Throughout this process children and teens require honest and meaningful encouragement, support and rewards for a job well done even when mistakes or failure occur. Every child will make mistakes. Perseverance and resiliency uncover within your child the ability not to feel defeated or embarrassed. Such feedback is essential if shame, guilt and anger are to be avoided. Positively-directed feedback encourages lifelong improvement and motivation as well as the realization of healthy self-esteem.