The way your child perceives himself or herself, determines their success or failure in whatever they do in life.
It influences their behaviour and performance in school, choice of friends and career. In short, the child’s view of self influences every decision he or she will ever make.
Thus, every word, action and method of child upbringing you adopt, either builds or destroys your child’s self-image or concept and that is the most important aspect of his or her life.
Experts advise that children and adults who possess self-respect, function well and do not stumble or grope through life.
There is, therefore, the need to build a positive self-concept in your child. Such people appreciate themselves, have confidence in their abilities and are satisfied with their life and work.
They risk attempting new grounds because they are confident about their capabilities. And when they fail in a task, they pickup the pieces, and move on without being grounded by guilt. Because they feel good about themselves, they are able to respond positively to people and life situations.
Parents contribute to what a child thinks about himself or herself at the onset. For instance, when the child does something wrong, it is enough to tell him or her it is wrong.
But majority of us are wont to adding, “Stupid girl, careless, naughty…” or invoke hurting sentences that erode a child’s feelings of self-worth, such as, “Why is it so difficult for you to ever do something right?”
Pushed to a corner by these critical remarks, coupled with non-verbal disrespect or emotional neglect, the child begins to grow up feeling ashamed of himself or herself, and knowing that he or she would not measure up to the parents’ yardstick. Day by day, these feelings find root in the child’s growth and development.
The child no longer finds solace in society either. This reinforces the already sprouting feelings of shame and not being ‘good’ enough. How?
The competition-oriented society increasingly pressurises him or her, to be nothing but the best! Competition abounds in classrooms, sports and other activities where the winner takes all awards and rewards, while the others are sidelined and consequently devastated by the perceived failure to be the best.
And the competition does not stop there; it gets right into the family where brothers and sisters get into a cut-throat struggle for the position of ‘favourite’ The losers feel inferior and unaccepted by the consequent belittling remarks either at home or outside.
The stage is set for a child to belittle and refuse to accept him or herself.
So, if you do not provide the child with the all-important support for the feelings of adequacy to develop in the formative years, the seed is planted then nurtured by a performance-oriented society for the child to experience self-castigation and self-disrespect right through to adulthood, with devastating consequences. Child expert, Nancy Van Pelt in her book, Train up a Child, explains that by the age of one year, a child’s self-respect is already vulnerable.
By just a few months of age, he or she can distinguish between censure and praise. He senses his importance when he receives attention, and he sees himself as having less value when he is treated roughly.
He identifies with what he perceives to be his parents’ feelings about him. His awareness of their love and respect, lays the crucial foundation for his own self-respect.
By the time he is three or four; his world widens to include a community of people. Nursery, pre-school or day-care classes, attending church, television viewing and listening to books being read all increase his exposure to others.
By the time he turns seven or eight, his social life enlarges again and he may already be wrestling with feelings of inferiority. Contact with playmates exposes him to teasing and ridicule.
Children are often frank, cruel and heartless in their dealings with one another. Almost every day the growing child encounters experiences that could assault his self-concept. And feelings of inadequacy accelerate to maximum levels during the teen years.
However, there is more to developing self-respect than refraining from calling a youngster belittling names.