Parenting Skills

Your Child’s Self Esteem

Children's self esteemSelf esteem: Your child’s energy bank account

Your child’s behaviour is a good indicator of their energy bank account level and their self esteem. If their behaviour is appropriate, you are putting good deposits in their energy bank account. If there is persistent misbehaviour it could be that you are consciously, or unconsciously, making withdrawals from your child’s energy bank account. How does a parent make withdrawals?

  • Conditional love. Loving your child only when they perform to your expectations (“Mummy will love you if you play nicely.”)
  • Ignoring. When you ignore your child they feel they have no significance.
  • Negative messages. Shaming, blaming, or humiliating your child causes major wounding (“You are dumb; when are you going to grow up; why can’t you be like other kids.”)
  • Yelling and hitting.
  • Not apologising when you make a mistake.

Building your child’s self-esteem is not complicated. Putting deposits in his or her energy bank account will maintain and strengthen the connection between you both. Here are some quick, but highly effective ways of building your child’s self esteem. Remember, a child with a high energy bank account is a happy child, and therefore less inclined to misbehave.

Actions speak louder than words

Did you know communication is 93% non-verbal? While words are important, actions convey powerful messages to our children. The following make wonderful deposits of love:

  • Hugs, touches, and kisses all convey the message “I’m okay”
  • Use a pleasant voice tone – no yelling, screaming, or sarcasm
  • Maintain good eye contact when your child needs your attention
  • Be physically close when you want to convey something important to your child
  • Use your hands to welcome your child, not to fi nger point, clench fi sts, or hands on hips

Children have an immense need to be loved. The greatest gift you can give your child is the repeated affirmation that they are loved, valuable, and capable. This inner need to feel valued is like an energy, or self esteem bank account. The energy bank account represents the amount of love stored in your child’s life. The level changes according to the love deposits, or withdrawals, parents make; deposits increase the energy level, withdrawals reduce it. The energy bank account determines the amount of influence you have in your child’s life. Children with a high energy bank account are co-operative children, whereas misbehaving children usually have low energy bank accounts. The balance also determines the trust between you and your child. You build strong connections with your child by making regular deposits in their energy bank account.

Your child needs your attention

You can’t build your child’s self esteem bank account if you are constantly busy, distracted, or preoccupied. While you can’t parent all the time, there are times when you need to consciously stop what you are doing and get physically close to your child. Set aside time each day for just the two of you to connect – no TV, radio, or talking to each other from the other side of the room.

Validate your child’s feelings

Children express one of three emotions when they hurt:

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Fear

All emotions are good. Ignoring or dismissing your child’s emotions makes them feel bad. And kids who feel bad usually behave badly too. Stop the cycle by giving your child permission to feel whatever they are feeling. Separate their behaviour from their feelings. While it’s okay to feel angry (emotion), when Dad is playing with younger sister, it’s not okay to pull younger sister’s hair (behaviour).

Tell your child everyday, in a thousand ways, that you love him or her.

  • When you discipline, use a calm voice.
  • Involve your child in activities you do – it might create a mess, but you’ll be putting heaps of deposits in the energy bank account.
  • Play and have fun together everyday.
  • Encourage your child to see mistakes as a natural part of learning and growing.
  • Reinforce and encourage your child’s good behaviour – whatever gets attention, gets done!
  • Create family rituals – special games, stories, and activities.
  • Create happy family memories for your child:
  • At meal times
  • Go for family holidays
  • Do fun things outdoors with your child

Putting deposits in your child’s self esteem bank account is not an optional parenting task. Dr John Gottman, a contemporary world renowned family researcher states, “Evidence is mounting that kids who can feel their parents love and support are better protected from the threats of youth violence, antisocial behaviour, drug addiction, premature sexual activity, adolescent suicide, and other social ills.” (The Heart of Parenting).


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