Yesterday I gave the expert’s view of how parents can help promote self-esteem in their children. Today I’d like to share the comments from a dad of two boys, ages 4 & 2.He views helping his children develop a strong sense of self-esteem as one of the most important things he can do as a father. He admits he’s learning as he goes, but he may be on to something.
According to well-known family therapist Daniel Gottlieb, best known for his award-winning radio talk show Voices in the Family on WHYY, and his most recent book, Learning from the Heart, “Research shows that kids coming out of college are self-absorbed, less resilient, more narcissistic, and the depression rate is going up. Kids should grow up thinking they are human, they are loved, they are similar to everybody else, they have the ability to make a contribution to the world, to help other people. That’s where the gifts are.”
This dad agrees. “I've heard it said that praising children repeatedly helps kids feel good about themselves but this has always felt hollow to me,” Dad points out. “I just don't see how I can create self-esteem through praise alone. I really think for the most part, a child has to have self-esteem grow from within. My job is to help it grow and I guess I try to do this in many ways.
“Most importantly, I want my kids to know that I love them unconditionally just because of the people they are. I want them to have the security in life that no matter what, Dad loves them for who they are. I also don't want my kids to ever feel that I have too high expectations of the. Sure, I have certain fundamental expectations, but I want my kids to be who they are, not who they think I want them to be.”
This father is hoping that as his kids feel confident to try more and more things in life, there will be a natural cycle that develops. As they learn new skills and master new activities, from riding a bike to learning to swim, he hopes they'll naturally begin to feel good about themselves and their abilities, and in turn they'll gain more and more confidence. That will allow them to try to master more and more.
“My job in their journeys is to make sure that the inevitable failures along the way come with lessons: be optimistic, seek help and be resilient,” he suggests. I want them to know that any problem can be solved and that they are never alone. If they have these qualities, then the failures along the way are merely stepping stones to developing new skills and increasing self confidence.
“Finally, I also want to teach my kids that they are an integral part of something larger than themselves - their family, their teams, their school, their society. I'm hoping that if they feel connected, they'll naturally want to do right by these groups. At the end of the day, if my kids can look in the mirror and know they are moral individuals, I think this will also help them feel good about themselves.”