This is the final part in a 4-part series on building self esteem in children. Of course there are more ways than these four, but I highlighted only a few for the television interview this month. There was actually only time for two of the four, so I’ve posted two bonus points as well as elaborated more on each.
I picked these four points because they are all essential to self esteem but they are not the obvious topics when discussing it. They may not be intuitive and can be easily overlooked. That’s why I like them so much and want to share them. That’s why I’ve titled them The Secrets of Self Esteem.
Yes, this one is not obvious at all. Building self esteem in children usually looks like a parent who tries to develop their child’s talents and finds ways for their child to achieve. Once they make the team, or win the blue ribbon or get straight A’s, then the child will feel good about herself, right?
My point with this last post is that after raising 5 children to work hard, I’ve gained insight that accomplishing a goal that was just out of reach is extremely satisfying. Like climbing a mountain and looking back at how far you’ve come. There’s a price to pay for such a view. And often the best reinforcement comes from within.
One of my daughters got a job as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant when she was 14 years old. She could barely see over the counter. She locked her knees when taking orders on the first day and was so nervous she fainted in front of the customer. We laugh about that now, but she proved her persistence by going back after that disastrous first day and working there for the next 3 summers. She knows that if she could get through that, she could do anything.
I included a photo of a boy mowing the lawn because it reminds me of my kids who mowed our large lawn when the mower seemed bigger than they were. I won’t lie; it was challenging to get them to do it sometimes. There was griping and complaining from time to time. But sweat and raw hard work is good for the muscles and building self worth. The accomplishment is rewarding and sometimes there is no standing ovation after finishing a grimy job. You learn to dig deep and finish what you started. Children need to learn they have value and can do hard things without a reward.
Sure they can sweat and work hard though being on a sports team or playing a musical instrument. But these activities are really self-interest driven. They are for the glory of the individual. The reinforcement is usually extrinsic. Self esteem is rooted in belonging to something larger than ourselves. Self esteem should not be limited to just what the child can do for himself, but how he makes sacrifices to belong to a family and maintain the life they live together.
So while studying hard for good grades or performing well in a school play are part of self esteem, another overlooked element is the work that gets no public recognition. It’s the physical work that is good for the soul because it’s not self-centered.
Don’t short change your kids by hiring out work they should and can be doing as a family member. Everyone needs to contribute whether through chores or a part-time job. It’s part of ownership and valuing what you have. We take better care of the things we have to care for and we feel more connected to the family when we each contribute our part.