Give Your Child the Gift of Self-Esteem
By Cassie Simons
Much has been said
about the "gifted child" but in truth every child is born
with unlimited potential. As expressed so well by Orison Marden:
"Deep within man dwell those slumbering powers; powers that
would astonish him, that he never dreamed of possessing; forces that
would revolutionize his life if aroused and put into action."
This statement can be true for your child. Not just if he's a
"gifted child" but any child. Indeed, perhaps we should
consider a "gifted child" to be a child whose parents have
gifted him with a high self-esteem.
Children with high self-esteem are happier and more successful.
Low self-esteem is common in children who are performing badly at school, have
behavioral problems and suffer from depression.
The "helpless" newborn baby actually comes into the
world well equipped with the power to get what she wants. Not only
do her cries bring her parents running to tend to her; she also uses
her body and facial language to get what she wants. It's no
coincidence that babies learn to smile while they are still very
small - it is an essential tool in their armory of communication. A
baby with a disarming smile can frequently wrap mommy or daddy round
her little finger!
At this early stage, it's important to respond to all your baby
attempts at communication. Attend to her when she cries (this does
not preclude training her gently into a stable routine), mirror her
attempts at facial communication and reward the infant sounds she
makes by praising her and talking back to her.
The "Can-Do" Toddler
Toddlers are into everything! They are learning so fast about the
world around them and want to explore everything, touch everything
and even try to eat many things.
It is such a crucial stage and one that is stifled by many
parents. Yes, you need to control your child's behavior so that he
doesn't hurt himself or damage valuable property. But you also need
to give him opportunities to express this exploratory behavior
without constant criticism and telling-offs.
Put valuables out of reach and supply your child with toys or
household items that he can play with safely. Try to find time to
get down on the floor and play with your toddler. Let him watch you
and imitate you. He could play on the kitchen floor with some pots
and wooden spoons while you are cooking.
I want to emphasize up front that I believe discipline is very
important, because I don't want you to think in any of what follows
that I'm advocating spoiling your child. Some parents call this
"allowing the child to enjoy the freedom of youth." These
parents are entitled, of course, to raise their children however
But if you want your child to grow into a successful adult, you
would do better by teaching her firmly what is and isn't acceptable
in present day society. And, just as importantly, helping her to
learn self-discipline and that you will support her in achieving
anything she wants, as long as she does so ethically.
Discipline should be sensitive, thoughtful and appropriate. You
should strive to never lose your temper but to discipline your child
calmly and firmly. When is discipline appropriate? When your child's
actions (or lack of them) may harm herself or others. When is
discipline not appropriate? When it is purely for the parent's own
Talk to Your Child
Positive talk with your child and generally within the household
cannot be over-emphasized. Avoid criticism wherever possible; it is
praise that produces good, successful behavior. Be sure to find at
least one thing to praise in your child every day. Even better, give
praise as often as possible.
Are you having problems finding good behaviors to praise? If so,
give your child a task to do that you know he is capable of.
Children love earning their parents' approval. Also remember to
praise your child for trying, on those occasions that he is not
Set a good example; talk about your goals and successes, and
teach your child by example to accept compliments gracefully. Resist
the temptation to put yourself down when you are complimented -
instead, say a simple Thank You. That's an important sign of a
The other side of the coin to talking is, of course, listening.
It is very important to listen to your child. When there is
something he is upset about, don't sweep it under the carpet by
saying "Don't be silly!" Whatever it is might seem totally
trivial to you but often all your child needs is for you to empathize. "I'm sorry you feel sad about that." He may
then come up with a solution, or put the incident behind him without
further help. Or, you can suggest a solution.
The Power of Desire
You can give your child the best possible schooling, teach all
the important techniques of success, encourage goal setting and set
a fantastic example. But that is not enough! All these good things
have one vitally important pre-requisite. Before you can achieve
anything, you must know what you really, really want.
A burning desire is the first, most important and essential step
towards any major achievement. As a parent, you are in a unique
position to influence another person's desires - your child's. By
the time they reach their teens, you will have lost this influence
to a significant degree, as young adults are swayed much more by
their peers' opinions than their parents'.
So make the most of the early years by instilling positive,
beneficial desires in your children. The desire to do well
academically could shape your child's further education and career
much more than her innate ability.
How can you instill desire? Telling stories is a great way.
Children love stories! Be creative and tell stories where the hero
or heroine has a burning desire for something, overcomes challenges
and set backs, and achieves the desired outcome. Try telling stories
where a child achieves academic success, which in turn results in
something even more desirable. For instance, one story could tell of
a child who has a burning desire to travel to the North Pole. She
succeeds academically and thus wins an award, which makes her dream
come true. Tailor the stories to your own child's life and
experiences as much as you can.
The famous author Napoleon Hill used story-telling to instill in
his almost-deaf son both a burning desire to hear, and a firm belief
that his disability would actually bestow upon him a great advantage
(although at the time even his father had no idea what that
advantage could be). By the time this boy left college, he had
against the odds acquired a hearing aid that enabled him to hear
clearly for the first time in his life. More remarkably, he had
justified his father's belief by securing a marketing position with
the hearing aid manufacturer to bring the same benefit to millions
of other deafened people.
"Gifted child"? Give your child the gift of
self-esteem, and you will give him the gift of happiness.
Cassie Simons (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is the author of "How to Help Your Child Succeed", a
revolutionary approach to guilt-free parenting. Positive Parenting,
Gifted Child - Visit
today for the secrets of raising successful children.