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SELF-HELP COLUMN

Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.


How to Nurture Your Children's Self-Esteem
by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

There’s no greater responsibility a parent has than to raise their child in a manner that develops and nurtures healthy self-esteem. It’s simply the number one priority. A child who has strong self-esteem is better able to make good choices. Being able to make good choices is a critical skill for navigating the mine field that awaits your child as they grow older—peer pressure, alcohol and other drugs, emotional confusion and turmoil, pre-marital sex, developing healthy emotional bonds with family and peers, and violence.

As important as a parent is in the development of healthy self-esteem, did you know that the average parent spends no more than 20 minutes a day communicating with their child. And of those 20 minutes, no less than ten minutes is spent criticizing and correcting their child. Let me ask you, how much time do you spend communicating with your children? And how much of that time is spent focused on emotionally and developmentally uplifting your child?

To better understand your role in the development and nurturance of your child’s self-esteem, let’s first take a moment to discuss what self-esteem is. Self-esteem is the belief that one has about their essential innate goodness, the worth they offer to others in relationship with others, and the greater value that one offers as a member of the community of our universe. Your child is not born with either good or bad self-esteem. Your child’s self-esteem is formed and shaped from the beliefs that your child develops about themselves. These beliefs are shaped and formed from the collective experiences that your child has interacting verbally and behaviorally with their environment and the people in your child’s environment. Being the primary person that your child interacts with, you have the opportunity to most heavily influence the beliefs that your child develops about their essential innate goodness.

Thus it falls to you, as a responsible parent, to interact with your child in a manner that positively shapes the beliefs that your child develops about their innate goodness, value, and worth. Certainly, praise, positive feedback, hugs, and quality time are all tried and true methods for nurturing the development of positive self-esteem in your child. Such interactions reflect to your child the positive regard that you have for them. Being held in positive regard by others is a fundamental element of self-esteem.

A second important source for the development of healthy self-esteem is the interpersonal relationships that your child develops. The health and well-being of those relationships will strongly influence the health and well-being of your child’s self-esteem. An important skill for your child to develop in order to develop healthy relationships is empathy. Empathy is the ability for one person to be able to walk a mile in another’s shoes. Teaching your child to become an empathetic responsible individual will enable to enjoy healthy relationships that provide critical emotional nutrition for your child’s self-esteem.

How best to teach empathy and responsibility? Teach your child to become more and more aware of how their behavior affects you and other people. When you observe your child participating in inappropriate behavior, use that as an opportunity to teach them appropriate social behavior. More specifically, teach them to think about: 1.) How their behavior negatively affects the well-being of others, 2.) How their behavior negatively affects their well-being, 3.) The adverse consequences associated with their negative behavior, 4.) Different choices that are more honoring and respectful of other people.

Besides the belief of innate goodness and respectful, nurturing relationships, a third ingredient of healthy self-esteem is mastery. Mastery is the development of a skillset that enables your child to have full command of a subject or activity. By encouraging your child to participate in activities that that they enjoy and challenging your child to stretch, hone, and refine their skills in those activities, your child will have positive experiences that will enable them to feel good about themselves. This may take the form of encouraging their participation in sports, academics, church, or other community activities. The key is not to force your interests down their throat, but to help them discover what their interests are, what they enjoy doing, and what they excel at doing.

Whether talking to your child, correcting their behavior, teaching them the nuances of friendship, or encouraging them to participate in activities, a good rule of thumb to follow is that children learn best when parents are personally involved. Be mindful of just how fragile your child’s psyche is—their emotional and psychological development is a work in progress. Never miss an opportunity for your child to learn in a positive way that contributes to their ever-evolving belief about who they are and what worth they hold within themselves. Help them participate in their relationships in a way that focuses not only on them getting their needs met, but enables them to honor the needs of others. Teach them how to participate in activities that feed their self-esteem.

Bridge Builder’s Checklist
1.) Commit to positively shaping and nurturing your child’s self-esteem.
2.) Commit to being appropriately involved in your child’s life.
4.) Commit to being an active teacher for your child.
5.) Commit to being a role model for your child.
6.) Commit to being a source of love for your child.
6.) Commit to being a source of encouragement for your child.
7.) Commit to being a source of positive feedback for your child.
8.) Commit to being a source for setting limits and developing consequences for your child’s misbehavior.

For more information about how to develop a strong healthy emotional connection with your child, read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. free online books, Entering the World of Your Child: How to Nurture Your Child’s Spirit and Building Better Bridges: Creating Great Relationships With the People Who Matter Most.

G.B.U.

Steve



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