By Essie Bester
Every child at some time or another struggles with the feeling that he/she is worthless. Functional therapist, Dr Bertie Hanekom, says, “It depends on parents, teachers and other important influencers whether children are going to reach adulthood with a positive picture of themselves.” He says you have to take notice of the way you speak to your child. A child who is reprimanded repeatedly in the wrong way, can start seeing himself as being afraid (for example of making mistakes), and/or guilty or worthless (inferior).
Emotions such as these not only influence your child’s courage and self-confidence, they affect how he experiences happiness and purpose. On the other hand, a healthy self-image enables him to do what he would like to do; it will allow him to be true to himself; to have clear boundaries and be able to say “no” gracefully in situations that do not fit in with his plans or values.
Does your child have a good self-image?
Does your child accept himself and is he happy with who he is?
Can he handle criticism without fretting about it for days or denying it?
Does he believe compliments from others are genuine?
Can he dare, or does he avoid and fear new situations and changes?
Does he blame others for his mistakes?
Does he believe in his own abilities?
Is he easily influenced by others?
Does he constantly worry about what others think?
Does he hide his feelings?
Does he see himself as of value, happy, needed and someone who earns the respect, acceptance and love of others?
To raise a child with a good self-image requires a parent who does not rule and control, but who educates and leads by being a role-model of faith, hope, plans and being hard-working.
Help your child to improve his self-image by:
- Accepting him unconditionally so that he learns to accept himself. Teach him to appreciate his uniqueness and to not try to be someone else.
- Giving acknowledgement. Be a source of his strong points – not only his achievements.
- Creating opportunities where he can experience himself as unique and competent. Allow him to go horse-riding, practise archery, get fit, take diving, piano or any other lessons which interest him.
- Presenting him with challenges that will shift his boundaries about what he thinks and believes about himself. If he achieves something he never thought he would be capable of, it will make him feel good about himself.
- Not offering help too quickly with things that he cannot do. Let him think and try first. Show respect for his efforts.
- Being quick to praise him and slow with criticism. Praise him for his inputs and not for the result. Help and provide guidance – the timing is important as it often determines if he will accept it as help or criticism.
- Teaching him to compare him with himself. If he has done better than before, he has performed excellently, regardless of whether he came first, third or last.
- Helping him to live a balanced life. Teach him to eat correctly and enough, get enough rest, relax and exercise regularly.
- Helping him to handle criticism by listening, make changes if necessary and take the rest from whence it came.
- Helping him to do away with meaningless self-criticism through positive self-speech. This is not the same as boasting.
- Teaching him that a plan can always be made. And respect his efforts – don’t always try to improve on them.
- Protecting him against destructive criticism and remarks by others – especially brothers and sisters. Teach your children that all people and all life deserve respect.
- Teaching him values with a sense of purpose. Tell him there is always something or someone to believe in, hope for and love.
Finally, and most important, is love. Your child should know – no matter what he does or does not do – that you love him unconditionally and that this will never change!