Building Self Worth & Self Esteem
Building a child's self confidence and self worth!
We often hear school professionals speaking of building children’s self-confidence. To accomplish this, many early childhood programs have been created that focus on skill development and task accomplishment. As children become more proficient in certain skills, their self-confidence grows. But, what about a child’s self-worth, is building self-confidence the same as building self-worth?
In my opinion, self-worth is the intrinsic understanding of one’s own value as a human being regardless of success or failure.
If building self-confidence comes through accomplishment, how then is self-worth developed? Some parents, not knowing that self-confidence and self-worth are both needed for a healthy life, exclusively promote accomplishment as the key to happiness. But, what happens if our child fails at a task or is unable to develop a particular skill? Does failure make them question their value as a person? Or what happens when we put too much emphasis on achievement and our children start to develop obsessive behaviors in pursuit of success?
In Victor Frankel’s classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankel felt that in order for a person’s life to have meaning there were three things that were needed; being engaged in a meaningful endeavor, learning to love and be loved and the ability to give meaning to our sufferings.
Dr. Frankel certainly knew that being engaged in a significant endeavor and giving our struggles meaning was critical. But, he also understood that being loved and loving another was vital to a meaningful life. As a counselor, I have seen an interesting correlation between people who know they are lovable and their level of self-worth. True inner strength in life seems to emanate, not from our accomplishments, but from the knowledge that we are lovable and can love others. For many this pure love is experienced through a parent, a friend, a companion or God.
One of my dearest memories is of my mother and her unconditional love for her children. To this day that knowledge has provided me with an invaluable inner peace. To know I am loved and able to receive that love is moving. I have seen people spend an entire life searching for the unconditional love that they never received and deserved as a child only to try and replace it with accomplishments and unhealthy relationships.
As a parent, you are the wellspring of your family’s love. Finding moments to interact with your children in a non-judgmental, non-task driven fashion is critical. Simple moments like a walk, making cookies, eating a meal together or just sitting and talking can mean so much to the development of a child’s self-worth. It is through these moments that our children come to understand that achievement alone does not give life value; rather it is the knowledge of being unconditionally loved by another and learning how to return that love that shapes our feelings of self-worth and provides our life with true purpose.