By Emsie Martin
A healthy self-image is your child’s defence against the world and its people. Children who feel good about themselves struggle less to handle conflict and negative pressure. They are also less inclined to pretend or to try and satisfy other people to their own detriment. Self-image is the way your child thinks and feels about himself and about things that are important to him. It is formed by what a child feels about himself as well as by the actions of people close to him.
Sometimes parents’ circumstances make it difficult to notice this. Do not hesitate to get professional help if your child experiences problems. Talk to a psychologist who specialises in this field.
Steps to strengthen your child’s self-image:
- Watch your words! Children are sensitive to parents’ remarks.
- Give positive and accurate feedback. Compliment your child only when his or her actions deserve acknowledgement and you mean it. Children are very quick to sense when you are not really sincere.
- Do not make demands that are beyond your child’s capabilities.
- Acknowledge their feelings, praise good choices they make.
- If he or she has made wrong choices, encourage your child to make better choices in future.
- Provide a safe and loving environment. The self-image of a child who is exposed to parents’ arguing and fighting is affected negatively.
- Be a positive role model. The example you set must speak of calmness and maturity.
- Help your child to become involved in constructive experiences such as sport, art or youth actions at your church.
- Identify your child’s false perceptions about himself and put them right. For instance, a child who does well at school except for mathematics, may feel he is “stupid”. Point out the false generalisation to him and offer to help.
- Do not make your child feel stupid or helpless by taking a task away from him if he appears to be struggling.
- Do not criticise, but praising the child’s positive behaviour shows that you notice it.
- It is also important that your child must learn to act independently. The temptation to check everything he does may be strong, but leave him to do things by himself.
- Honesty and openness between you and your child is not negotiable and therefore your child must not be scared of you. He or she must always feel free to be honest with you.
- Nutrition is important. Make sure your child eats healthy food and that he or she is physically healthy.
- Love is very important. Your child must know that no matter what he does or does not do, you love him unconditionally and this will never change. Be loving and spontaneous.
Susan du Plessis is an educational specialist and published author in the field of learning problems and dyslexia with more than 25 years’ experience. She holds a BA Honours degree in psychology as well as a BD degree from the University of Pretoria, and opened the first Edublox Reading, Mathematics and Learning clinic in 2007. Today there are more than 40 Edublox clinics in Southern Africa. Visit the Edublox website.
The Big Book of Parenting Solutions (Jossey-Bass)
Dr Michelle Borba, an expert in the field of parenthood, in her book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, offers an outline of her minute-a-day plan for 21 days that can improve your child’s self-confidence.