So many of our children today are suffering from low self-esteem, and we can help them! The great news is that nobody is born with feelings of low self-worth. Low self-worth is a pattern of thinking that can develop. Babies have natural confidence, with a sense of feeling that they have something to accomplish. We give them a crayon and they color. They don’t think, “Maybe I won’t do a good enough job.” They also don’t have thoughts such as, “That other baby is cuter than me, smarter than me, or more capable than me.” They just take the crayon and color. When they feel strong enough they get up and start walking. When they fall, they get up and try again. All this is natural without any unhelpful thoughts about themselves, their worth, or their abilities.
Then babies grow into toddlers and they go off to playgroup and school, where they have all kinds of experiences. They have all sorts of experiences and interactions in their home lives, too. They start to develop beliefs about themselves based on what they see. (Don’t panic – each experience is tailor made for them with love by Hashem as something they need to experience.) While we can’t prevent them from ever being put down, and we can’t control every experience they have, we CAN help them see their real worth no matter what they experience.
It is important to tell your child the following truth: Before you were even born, Hashem decided that the world needs YOU! That means that we each have a unique purpose in this world.
We want our children to know that they each have a special place in their family, their class, and in the world, that nobody else can fill. I like to let my children know that this is true about every child in our family and in their class, because it’s hard to argue with a universal principle.
So how do we get that message across when our children do have experiences that point their thinking in the opposite direction?
- If the experience was hurtful, we empathize.
- We model for our children that we are not afraid that they will lose their confidence, since it’s part of a human being’s hard-wiring, and never leaves us. It may get blocked, we may not see it or feel it, but it’s always there.
So when our children tell us that they are incapable, unlovable, or anything of that sort, I like to respond with a big smile and say, “My thoughts also tell me all kinds of things about myself.” This type of comment acknowledges that while the discomfort of that thought is there, it is actually nothing more than a thought.
If we raise our children with the above TRUTHS, when they are faced with adversity, they can get back to their natural state of confidence.
With that confidence comes the ability to create, produce, and have an effect on the world around us. When our kids have down time, they can come up with so many activities. When children are very young, I like to brainstorm with them about how to keep busy so they own these ideas as they get older. When they are young we can list categories of “Things to Do.” We can say, “You have much to accomplish every day. You can use the list if you’d like some ideas or you can come up with new ideas.”
Samples of “Things to Do” Categories
Things That Bring Joy to Others:
Call a grandparent
Make a card for someone
Call a kid in your class who was out sick
Organize a closet
Practice a sport
Practice an instrument
Listen to music
Take a walk
Read a book
Tammy Sassoon is a parenting coach and educational consultant. She gives live and online parenting courses. She served Dean of Students at Bet Yaakov Orot Sarah where she piloted her acclaimed social & emotional wellness programs, which she now teaches educators and students worldwide.