The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Parents Develop Your Child’s Self Esteem

There  is  a great deal written about self esteem  and  what
teachers and parents can to do to help develop this attribute  in

Dr. Julius Segal in the Brown University Child Behavior  and
Development  Letter writes that teachers have enormous  power  in
affecting children’s self esteem.  They serve as powerful models. 
He reports on a large body of research which shows that teacher’s
expectations of the child’s capacities affect not only  learning,
but  motivation and self-esteem.  Dr. Segal feels  that  teachers
often provide the magical bond that allows many children to  turn
their lives from certain defeat to glorious victory. 

There  is  an  article  in  another  publication   entitled,
“Raising Kids”, which gives parents guidelines on how to  enhance
their  children’s  self esteem.  The article  states  that, while
children’s   feelings  about  themselves  are  shaped   by   many
influences,  parents  are the first and  most  important.   These
authors recommend that parents: be responsive to needs; take time
to let the child feel loved, special and unique; love and  accept
the child unconditionally; accept all of the child’s feelings  as
legitimate  and  talk about them; give the child the  freedom  to
create and master challenges. 

All  of  these experts put the burden  of  developing  self-
esteem on everybody but the child.  The assumption is that if all
of  the  adults do their job well, the child will  have  positive
self-esteem.   While the adults are important,  self-esteem  must
ultimately come from within each child.  In many cases, it  might
have  to come in spite of the adults around the child.  In  other
words, the child needs to take responsibility for how he feels. 

Jill  Anderson  developed  a  program  entitled,  “Thinking,
Changing, Rearranging” which is based on Albert Ellis’  Rational-
Emotive Therapy.  Instead of developing self-esteem by trying  to
fix  things  for  children  so  they  will  experience   success,
validation   and  love,  this  program  provides  children   with
knowledge  and  skills so they can take control  of  their  inner
environment  regardless of what happens in the external one.  The
program  helps  children  take charge of  their  day  and  become
responsible  for their feelings.  Children are helped to give  up
the  belief that they “have to” feel a certain way  “because  of”
what happens. They learn that they are in charge of their beliefs
even though they cannot control events and people around them.
The  program  helps children distinguish  amongst  fact  and
rational  beliefs and irrational beliefs.  Unnecessary  emotional
pain is often caused when children treat an irrational belief  as
a  fact.  When this happens we have the beginnings of racism  and
sexism and acts of people like Hitler. 
The following are eleven irrational beliefs which will cause
them  problems:   Everybody  must love me.  I  must  be  good  at
everything.   Some people are bad and must be  punished.   Things
should  be different.  It’s your fault I feel this way.   I  know
something bad will happen soon.  It’s easier not to even try.   I
can’t help being this way.  I need someone stronger than I am.  I
need to get upset about your problems.  There’s only one good way
to do it.

These  are the rational beliefs which help and do not  cause
problems: Everybody does not have to love me.  It is okay to make
mistakes.   Other people are okay and I’m okay.  I don’t have  to
control  things.  I am responsible for my day.  I can  handle  it
when things go wrong.  It is important to try.  I am capable.   I
can change.  Other people are capable.  I can be flexible.

Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying: “There’s only one  corner
of the universe you can be certain of improving: and that’s  your
own  self.”   I  encourage you and your  children  to  begin  the process.

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