3. Building Self-Esteem In Your Child


A parent can love a child and yet convey the opposite of love. How do you feel about your child? Do you feel they are dumb, stupid, or average? Were you disappointed the child was a girl, a boy? What do you think about their looks?

Without realizing it you may display your feelings by your looks and actions.

A Child Is Sensitive To The Way You Feel Toward Them

What is important is to remember that so much of a child’s self-concept emerges from the way they think you see them. They watch what you say and do.

Let’s give some illustrations.

1. You are tense and nervous when they start to speak to guests or outsiders. Then, you butt in to explain what they are trying to say. They think they are doing fine but you are saying by your actions that you are embarrassed with them thus they get the message that they are not doing so fine.

2. You laugh nervously when their remarks sound foolish. By your actions you let them know you don’t think highly of them.

3. When someone asks a direct question you interrupt and answer for them. By your actions, you are saying you are afraid to trust them and that they might say the wrong thing and embarrass you.

4. You talk about a child’s weaknesses before them. ‘Oh, he is a terrible speller’. They will believe what you say and will be what you say they are. Even a five-year-old is capable of feeling his lack of worth.

Can you recall some of your feelings when you were young? Can you remember being put down? Someone has said that it takes about 30 positive actions to overcome one negative action.

A child that is constantly being put down will have low self-esteem and will be handicapped in later life. Our most subtle behaviour signals to our children that we are disappointed, that they have wounded our pride and hurt us.

Take a parent’s first visit to kindergarten on parent’s night. You have such great expectations for little Johnny. You go over to the bulletin board where all the artwork is displayed. You search for his picture but it isn’t there. Finally, you discover it off somewhere else but it isn’t as good as the others.

You introduce yourself to his teacher and she winks and says, ‘I’ve been meaning to call you about Johnny’. The news isn’t exactly what you want to hear. Meanwhile, the disappointment of the night is showing quite plainly on your face.

The class presents a little program but Johnny is hardly visible. By now pain and disappointment are written all over your face. As you take Johnny home that night you may even scold him a little or suggest he ought to be doing better. Meanwhile, he is getting the message that you feel like he has let you down.

A parent’s manner can either convey respect and love or disappointment. This can be very crushing. By our expressions, we say, ‘you have disappointed me’.

A slow learner rarely receives a happy face or complement. They are often rebuked for failures, they get the message from our looks and expressions, you’re dumb, you’re stupid.

Conditional Love

A child may believe they are loved but they do not believe they are held in high esteem either. They are thinking, ‘it seems they love me but they are not proud of me. I’m important to them but I’m a disappointment’. Loving them is not enough, we must also respect them.

If we love them only when they please us they will not feel genuinely loved. If we love them only when they meet our requirements they will soon feel it is fruitless to do their best because it is never enough.

This is love but it is conditional love. Conditional love says, ‘I will love you if…. but if you don’t. I won’t love you.’

There are also some bad spiritual repercussions from conditional love. When a person in their younger years are constantly made to feel that the things they do are not really very good and the wrong things are very bad, that God is more displeased, than pleased with their life then it is difficult to have a normal feeling about guilt.

Sometimes parents set higher standards for their children than they had to live up to and are impossible to reach. They criticize, rebuke and put down their children for not attaining the goals they have set for them. Instead of helping and encouraging their children to live good lives, they are pushed into a deep sense of guilt.

One can come to see themselves as a no-good, worthless, inferior person not able to be loved by God since they can’t be unconditionally loved by their parents. They transfer the feelings their parents have toward them over to God and think He feels the same way toward us.

Also coupled with guilt may be the false concept that God is a vengeful waiting person to catch us in something wrong and always remembering our every fault. We may feel that the basic thing in Christianity is punishment, not reward and that there is more negative in Christianity than positive.

Putting A Child Down

Common everyday remarks can be very damaging to a child. ‘When are you ever going to start growing?’ Children are very conscious about their growth and such remarks can be painful.

‘Mr. and Mrs Martin sure have. Smart kids.’ The child thinks, ‘they never say I’m smart.’ And the conclusion is, ‘I’m not very smart.’ Mommy and Daddy don’t like you when you do that.’

The child reasons, ‘Mommy and Daddy don’t like me, period.’ ‘God doesn’t love you when you do bad things like that.’ And the conclusion is, ‘God doesn’t like me.’ ‘The boogie man will get you for being a bad boy.’

What a horrible way to discipline a child. ‘Your just plain lazy’. ‘Any dummy can do that,’ etc., etc. Parents who excessively blame, condemn, judge and accuse their children when they fail to live up to their expectations cause them to grow up feeling they have little worth.

Furthermore, they will act this out in their lives. Many people are failures today because their parents made them feel they were failures. Even nicknames often leave a person with low self-esteem. ‘Peanut’, ‘Bird legs’, ‘Fatty’, ‘Shorty’, ‘Slim’.

Berate child’s worth is based on his looks, this is not fair. It can be very painful when one child is always, ‘Pee Wee’, ‘Runt’, a child’s worth. Even innocent humour is the object of jokes.

Often conditional love will provoke a child to anger. Since we teach children to repress anger it becomes stored up to emerge in later years as depression or else in rebellion.

Just remember that low self-esteem will cripple a child emotionally and will affect them throughout their adult life because down deep there has been planted the seeds that say, ‘I am a failure. I am not worth much’.

Accept your child for who and what they are. They can never be 100% of what you want them to be. Love them, respect them, and make them feel important to you. Give them a healthy respect for themselves. Every child deserves this. A child needs minor setbacks and disappointments, which come his way.

How can they cope with life later on if they have never had to face trials? They need to develop the quality of stick-ability. Adult life is filled with problems that demand solving. One must constantly adapt, readjust, and compensate because life is problem-solving.

A tree in a rain forest, not forced to extend its roots downward in search of water is poorly anchored and can be toppled by a moderate windstorm.

A mesquite tree in a dry desert threatened by its environment survives by sending its roots more than thirty feet deep into the earth seeking cool water. It becomes strong and steady against all assailants.

Children who learn to conquer their problems are more secure than those who have never faced their problems. An overprotected child can’t make themselves do things that are unpleasant since they have never had experience with adversity. Small tasks can appear insurmountable.

Letting your child cry can be good for him. Don’t take too much notice of their small ailments or hurts. They may be using these things to get attention.

Crying is often used to manipulate parents but by letting them cry, they see they can’t always have their way. We often make mountains out of molehills. A cut, scratch, a fall, etc. can be made into a major crisis. We have raised a generation of hypochondriacs. How often do we hear children complain, ‘I don’t feel like it’ or ‘I have a headache’.

One other thought about over protection. Don’t protect a child from consequences. They need to learn the painful way sometimes. Consequences can be a great teacher and many valuable lessons can be learned.

If we spare them from consequences, we deny them this learning experience and at the same time teach them they do not have to suffer for their wrong actions.

Not Giving Responsibilities

At an early age, a child should be made to understand they have certain responsibilities in the home. A family functions as a team, they share with each other, support and help each other, and show care and concern for each other.

No member of the family has the right to just receive and never contribute to the functioning of the home. It is easier to not give responsibilities to a child for they often resist any assignments we might give them.

It seems easier sometimes to just do it ourselves. If this course is followed a child is not given an opportunity to have a sense of cooperation and contribution. It only leads to self-centeredness.

At an early age, a child can have responsibilities about their bedroom such as picking up their toys before they go to bed, etc. As they grow older, more difficult tasks will be added such as picking up their clothes and keeping their room straight.

In later years as a teen, they will be asked to get a job, so they can pay for such things as their clothes, and car insurance and also have their own spending money. Learning to shoulder responsibilities is a very important part of bringing up children.

If we fail in this we are not loving our children as we should. Some parents will not do this because they think it is being too hard on a child. By not doing it they think they are expressing love but they are very much mistaken.

Go To Lesson 4


"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."