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Childlife.ca e-news#14: Cultivating Self-Esteem Part I

By Mary Stuart, E.C.E.D.H., RECE

“All the Flowers of Tomorrow are in the Seeds of Today” — Old Indian Proverb

Building a good sense of self-esteem is more than just saying, “Good boy.” “Well done.” “You are the very best at everything.”

If we really want children to develop a strong sense of self-esteem, we have to start by creating an environment that is rich with opportunities that germinate trust and positive relationships; sow independence and success.

These are the foundations that help build self-esteem.

4 Fundamental Elements in Cultivating Self Esteem

Germinate trust by excavating positive relationships:

  • Let children know that you believe in them and think they are worthwhile and unique. Value what they have to say or share with you. Support all their efforts even if they are in error. Correct their ways in the most gentle and positive ways possible. “I see you are spending a lot of time at the sand table. It looks like you are really enjoying the sand. Try to remember to keep the sand in the sandbox.”
  • Spread sensitivity throughout the day. Be aware of each child’s feelings when embarrassing things happen. Be casual and matter-of-fact when a child wets his pants or spills her milk.
  • Sprout a sense of humour and help a child feel good about himself. Sow some fun and laughter into each and every day. When children can enjoy being entertained and entertaining, they are on their way to developing a good sense of humour and self-esteem.
  • Plant the idea that it is OK for children to have and to express their feelings. Help them to deal with their feelings by allowing them appropriate outlets for their sometimes strong feelings. Reinforce their feelings and what they can do about it. “Charlie hit you on the head. That hurts. You can tell him ‘I don’t like that. Touch me gently.’” This helps build trust and good relations, and promotes emotional literacy.

A genuine, positive self-image is a life-long developmental process that starts as early as birth. By spending time tilling the soil and planting seeds of value, you will reap the rewards of a harvest crop…children with self-esteem!

Stay tuned for Part II of How to Cultivate Self-Esteem.