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When Chloe, my twelve year old daughter was about four, she stood in front of her full length mirror admiring her reflection. When she saw me standing in the doorway, she smiled and said, ‘I love myself.’ My heart was filled to overflowing as I heard her expression of self love and I thought about how great it would be to stay little forever.
As we age, it’s often difficult to maintain those loving feelings. I’m thinking about my twenty year old who when she was seventeen, was more inclined to focus on the pimples on her face and her gangly limbs as she struggled through typical egocentric adolescent angst about what others might think of the way she looked.
Now, at age 20, Talia understands society’s pre occupation with how we look on the outside but also realizes the importance of loving her inner beauty.
Healthy self esteem is when we look at the people around us but don’t think of ourselves as any better or worse than anyone else. It’s also about loving yourself from the inside out. The kind of love that allows for age spots, acne and other imperfections. The kind of love that allows you to shine and says that you are proud of who you are.
If you believe that it is important for your child to love him or herself from the inside out, then you may be interested in the tips below:
How do you show that you love yourself? What do your children hear and see when you’re standing in front of your mirror? Do they hear you say, ‘I’m so fat. I look terrible in this dress.’ Or do they hear you say, ‘I like the colour of my shirt against my skin.’ On other occasions, do they hear you say, ‘I’m so clumsy. I’m always spilling things.’ Or do they hear you say, ‘Oops, I’ll get a rag to clean this up.’ Keep in mind that your children are listening and watching even when you think they aren’t.
Separate the Deed From the Doer
As cliché and obvious as this may sound, it is very important to remember that even when your child behaves badly, he or she is not ‘bad.’ In fact, even when he or she behaves well, try not to say that he or she is a ‘good’ boy or girl. When you are happy or proud or when you are angry or disappointed, comment on the behaviour that has made you feel this way. So, instead of saying, ‘You weren’t a good girl for mommy today,’ say, ‘When you don’t share with your brother, I feel disappointed.’
Choose Your Words Carefully
Even with the best of intentions, there are times when parents use demeaning words or label their children in a way they regret later. I am thinking of comments such as ‘don’t be an idiot,’ ‘you’re so selfish,’ ‘don’t be a loser,’ and one of the more common, ‘you’re so lazy.’ Even though we may slip up from time to time, it is our responsibility not to demean or use words that will make our children feel put down. It is our responsibility as parents not to call our children names.
Sit With Your Children While They Watch Television
Watching any program with your child is important but in relation to this topic, especially when they are watching popular programs that perpetuate society’s infatuation with botox and better bodies. Ever watched Toddlers and Tiaras? It’s a real eye opener. By watching with them, you can comment and ask questions that will help them to evaluate what they are watching and how they are being influenced. I don’t believe in forbidding or censoring most programs as this may encourage even greater curiosity and may lead to them watching behind your back.
Make Family Their Foundation
If a child feels that his or her family is working together as a team, that people care about one another, treat each other respectfully and help each other out with responsibilities, then that child is more likely to feel a sense of security and belonging. He or she will feel an overall sense of well being, loving others and will be more likely to feel good about him or herself.
Looking for more ways to encourage your child to develop healthy self-esteem? Sara has more pointers here.
Young children (ages 2+) love to help us around the house. Even though letting kids ‘help’ can sometimes add to our work load, it’s still worth it. Chores teach kids responsibility, independence and self-reliance. (If we want adults with these character traits, we need to start teaching them now.)
Here are five steps to teach kids responsibility through chores:
1. Meet the child at his/her level
Give tasks and chores that are age appropriate. Break tasks into small pieces for younger children. For a list of age-appropriate chores, click here.
2. Teach the child how to do the task
Parents are often guilty of expecting children to set the table or clean up the playroom without teaching them how it is done. Initially, show the child how to do the task, and then do it together. Finally, let the child do it alone with support. A chart or checklist for the task can be helpful.
3. Value effort
Acknowledge when your child attempts the task or partially completes it. Accept that your child will probably not do it perfectly right away and perhaps for a long time to come. If there is a task that is near and dear to your heart (perfectly folded laundry, hospital corners on the beds) keep that task for yourself rather than feeling that you will have to redo it when your child is not looking. Even though our words say, ‘I know that you can do this,’ when we redo a task that our child has done, our actions scream, ‘You are not responsible enough to do this!’
4. Create routines with your child
Set up morning, bedtime, table-setting routines so that your child learns what is expected every day. This sets everyone up for success and decreases chaos. Make charts so that the child can check to see what needs to be done—use pictures and words if your little ones don’t read.
5. Model responsibility and try to make work fun
Follow your own routines and show your child that responsibility is valued in your home. Turn on some dance music for clean up or set the timer and race the clock. Agree to clean for 5 minutes and then read a story for 3 minutes.
Children will begin to see themselves as responsible members of the household and will continue to accept the responsibilities that go along with that privilege.