Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

A Parent’s ABCs of Self-Esteem

on October 21, 2012

I don’t have very high self-esteem. I tend to be extremely critical of myself and become extremely anxious when someone criticizes me or when it appears that someone doesn’t like me or has issues with me. (even if there’s no problem at all, I will see something that isn’t there) I’ve tried to go to the root of my self-esteem problems, tried to understand where the issue stems from, and tried to meditate on scripture so that I can overcome this issue…but I think this might go along with my depression issues, which, as I’ve blogged about is very difficult to overcome.

I’ve noticed that there are multiple children that I teach on any given Sunday or Wednesday that are seriously struggling with self-esteem issues. This really bugs me. Kids shouldn’t have these heavy issues to deal with yet! But they do. So, how can we train up our kids to have high self-esteem without being self-obsessed or filled with a superiority complex? (We’ll reference focus on the Family and Parenting Author, Dr. Leman)

As a parent, you need to learn the ABCs of instilling self-esteem in your children. What are the ABCs? They are:

  • Acceptance
  • Belonging
  • Competence

Let’s break these down one by one:

Acceptance – You need to accept your child, unconditionally. You may not like the music they listen to, clothes they want to wear, or other kids that they want to play with…but you need to show your child that you accept them, despite those things. (Obviously this is within reason…you don’t want your kids to listen to Marilyn Manson, Wear skimpy clothes, or play with kids who steal or are a definite bad influence on them) If you tell you child constantly that you disapprove of their music, friends, and activities they will begin to look for acceptance from their friends – not from you. This will lead to lower self-esteem and a higher risk of succumbing to peer-pressure. If you want to send a strong message to your child that they are accepted, listen and ask questions to show you care about their interests and concerns. A.K.A., develop a relationship with your kids. Dr. Leman says, “Without a relationship, your rules, your words and your actions mean nothing. The wedge between you and your children will drive them toward Acceptance and Belonging in a group outside your home.”

Belonging – Everybody wants to belong. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. How can you give your kids a sense of belonging? By creating a community within your family. To accomplish this, Dr. Leman suggests giving your children a vote in decisions, listening to what they say and supporting them in their activities. When you have family decisions and a sense of belonging within your family, your children are less likely to try to change their image or personality and values for different peer groups. This will ensure that your kids won’t be influenced by peer-pressure. For example: if you talk to your kids openly about stealing, smoking, drugs, promiscuous behavior, and dangerous behavior and include them on making the rules… your children will be much less likely to stay away from those behaviors because their “family doesn’t do that” rather than, “mom and dad won’t let me.”

Competence –  Children become competent when they experience life first hand. If you are an overprotective parent, you’ll need to fight the urge to do for your kids what they can do for themselves. Don’t micromanage your kids! Nobody enjoys feeling like others find them unable or too irresponsible to complete a task. The most common mistake when people think they’re helping others is saying: I want you to succeed, so I will clear away all of the road blocks or complete the task myself. What you’re really saying is, “You’re too stupid to do this on your own, I need to either complete the task myself,  or make sure you check in with me every step of the way.” When I was 21, I decided that I was going to live in Honduras for a summer and stay at an orphanage. I knew nobody in the entire country. My parents were worried out of their minds, but one of the best decisions that they made was to let me go, and to not contact me at all…letting me contact them only when I needed them. I had an adventure! There were fun times, times that I was depressed, times that I felt like I was in over my head, and I even experienced a few very dangerous situations (that I didn’t tell my parents about until I returned home, of course). But I really learned about how to be independent of my parents, and dependent on God! Of course, your kids will not be traveling independently overseas anytime soon, but as they exert their independence, ask yourself if what you want to protect your children from is necessary. If it’s not a life or death situation (or harmful), allowing your child to make mistakes will help develop their self-esteem.

There you have it: the ABCs of building self-esteem in your kids. Granted, it may not be as easy as singing the song, but with a little practice, your kids can grow up to become confident and responsible adults.

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