“My son’s behavior is because of his self-esteem. As a teacher, it is your job to be building it up.” Those were the quick words a mother told me about her third grade boy in the car pickup line. She didn’t want to get to the root of the problem, but rather put the blame on another. When I talked with my adviser, she was mad because another year had come around with the mother refusing to come in for any parent-teacher meetings. The advice from a wiser, more experienced teacher showed me something that day, the root of the problem we were having wasn’t about self-esteem but the child's self-worth. Self-worth, most people consider it as a synonym for self-esteem, but they are two different things we need to separate. Self-esteem (what you can do) is the external actions that are valued in society today. Self-worth (who you are) is the internal you, your character, your heart, the value many want to over look.
Today’s society tells us we need to be above average in the things we do. Young moms are pushing their tiny tots into pre-schools so they will be more advanced when they enter kindergarten. Those little ones are missing out on valuable mommy time and just being a toddler. Older children all across this country are hearing words like, “You’re a better player than they are”, or “You let them beat you out for that trophy”; words of comparison and hurt.
Each individual is different and functions on their own level no matter how hard we push them.
Parents, whether you want to admit to it or not, there is always someone who is better than your child at something. You need to realize it before causing a rift in your relationship with your little fella. The childhood years should be just that – a childhood having fun as a kid without any added pressure. Just remember, there is someone better than you at what you think you excel in.
We all want our children to grow up to become good productive, generous adults. We don’t want them to look for the love and compassion they crave in the wrong areas. It happens. As a parent, we need to get to the heart of our children and help grow their self-worth.
Developing Your Child's Self-Worth
Comparison – don’t do it! Don’t ever let your child hear you compare them with another. Their mental and physical abilities are different from others. More likely than not, they will quickly pick up on this on their own and work on things themselves. Children have their own interests, allow them to pursue them without pushing on them what another is doing.
Positivity – our actions and words are important for those around us – be positive. Let your children hear you speak positive about the things they do. Let your face speak positive because when they misbehave a negative look may be all it takes to stop the behavior. When your child comes to talk about a sensitive subject, don’t push them away. Don’t tell them it is nasty, sinful, and it is not right. If you are not ready to talk about it, make time so you can get your thoughts together. Be honest with their questions. If you don’t answer their questions honestly, they will get a worldly answer elsewhere.
Meaningful activities – encourage your child to find something that will bring them joy. If they are interested in learning a craft (sewing, knitting) or a foreign language, let them. Children are such a joy for those who are living in nursing homes. Many of them were placed there and forgotten by family members. Taking an hour or so a week to visit and spend time with the elderly brings joy to all involved. Our children can learn so much from the older generation. Don’t let them pass on without letting your children experience their stories.
Integrity - teach your children their actions and beliefs must be the same. They need to learn this step of self respect early on, so they will care about their character and what others know about them.
With the adviser’s help and the help of another older teacher, I was able to work more on showing this young man his self-worth. It was also the last incident for that mother to not attend any parent-teacher meetings if she wanted her son to attend the school. Of all the children I taught, this one little boy as a lasting memory in my mind. We had our challenges that year; I can’t help but wonder where his life has led him. He was more than his self-esteem.