Rafed English

How to foster self-esteem in a child?

Having seen the importance of self-esteem in the life of a child, many people wonder what can be done to ensure that a child has a healthy sense of self-esteem. There is much that parents can do, or avoid doing, that will help the child to respect himself. The following points are not meant to raise the child on a pedestal, and turn him into a proud, selfish brat. When doled out in moderation, these tactics will help foster a feeling a sense of self-worth. All parents should use discretion in their individually unique circumstances to avoid over indulging and spoiling the child. These points are given only as guidance.

Show respect to the child

Many parents do not feel it necessary to respect the child. They expect respect, but believe that respecting the child will amount to spoiling him. However respect for the child in the following ways will help the child feel good about himself, as well as respect the parent more willingly:

a) Talk to the child in a normal voice or tone. Don’t belittle the child by talking in a childish voice. Talk to him constantly, not only when you want to scold him or tell him to do something. Talk about everyday affairs; school, work, political issues, stories from your past, etc. etc. Some parents believe that because children do not understand at the level of adults, there is not much use in talking to them. But children who are talked to more often become more understanding and insightful than those who are not. These children feel a sense of communication with the parents, and know that their parents deem them worthy of a conversation. It is a great boost in confidence.

b) When scolding the child, do not totally destroy his feeling of self-worth. Reprove him for a particular action rather than a general “you are good for nothing” attitude which, if dealt out constantly, will lead the child to actually believe it. As quick as parents are to point out a wrong act, they should remember there are good qualities also present in the child.

c) Listen to his ideas and opinions. When the child wishes to say what he thinks of something, encourage him to talk. Don’t ridicule or put him down. A child will not have the wisdom of an adult but deserves to be listened to so that he will be forthcoming in his views in future. Dismissing a child’s opinions as unworthy is a perfect way to suppress any thoughtfulness or creativity in the child.

d) Sometimes speak positively about him to others. When a child hears himself being talked about positively, he feels that it is a sincere appreciation. It need not be long praises, or undeserved praise. But when the child does something good, mention it to a relative, or a friend, etc. This will seem more genuine and have more effect than a word of praise to the child himself. Parents who criticize and complain about the child to others, in front of the child, often ruin any feeling of self-worth the child may have. Sometimes parents and relatives act as if the child cannot hear. They discuss him in his presence, comparing him to others and mentioning the bad qualities he has. This has a very negative effect on the child.

Teach the child to think highly of himself

Encourage him to set goals and have high expectations of himself. In school and Madrasah and any other activities he may be involved in, help him to do well and to achieve the utmost possible with his capabilities. A push of encouragement from the parent, as well as concerned interest, helps the child try hard in his daily activities. Teach him that certain things are below his dignity. These could include complaining too much, asking for things from others, getting into trouble with authority etc. The child will become habituated to a certain type of behavior. Anything below that will seem unworthy for himself.

Make him familiar with stories of great people

Children love stories, and these are a great medium for imparting valuable lessons. When the children are young and rely on parents to read to them, use the opportunity to read inspiring stories of great people. Many Islamic books for children are available these days, and Muslim parents should make good use of them. Even when reading secular stories, search your local libraries for stories that will inspire the child towards good virtues. Heroes and their heroic actions are often imprinted in the minds of the child, and this will do more to push him towards noble behavior than a lecture from the parents. Manipulate the interest in stories to gain a sense of respect and dignity for noble behavior.

Listen to the child’s wishes

Sometimes a child is opposed to what the parent wishes him to do. This could be as simple as an enforcement of bedtime, wearing of appropriate clothes, or going for a particular outing, etc. The child may have a different view as to what should be done. A good parent would listen to what the child has to say. This does not mean that the parent gives in to the child, or lets him do as he wishes. It just means that the parent respects the child’s opinions although not necessarily following it. The child will eventually do as the parent wishes, but will feel that he was listened to.

Adopted from the book: "Raising Children" by: "Tahera Kassamali"

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