For the first two quarters of the school year, Olivia’s grades were perfect, all A’s on the report card of the second grader. Olivia was involved in the school holiday play, she was in the inventor’s club, she got along with everyone and always looked forward to going to school.
Something changed once school started again after winter break. Olivia began to withdraw from her friends, she was making up illnesses to stay home and when she was at school, her grades were slipping.
After some prying, Olivia’s parents found the root of her problem: A new teacher had taken over her classroom after her original teacher took maternity leave. With the new instructor came a stricter environment, one that didn’t allow for students to voice their opinions or explore creative options in the classroom. One that didn’t show mutual honor and respect but strict discipline and negative reinforcement without freedom of expression.
“Children need consistent guidance to build positive self-esteem. Knowing a few key strategies will help build solid foundations for children,” says Sharon Thayer, children’s advocate and author of the children’s book “If You Tell Me, I Can Fly” (www.carousel-publishing.com).
“Verbally shooting a kid down can have a negative influence on his or her life, the same way showing respect and affirming a child’s positive behavior can have a negative effect.”
Once parents know it doesn’t take much effort and just takes consistent interaction and feedback over the course of time, one of the top gifts they can give is a positive sense of self. Building self-esteem is an on-going process that is not hard but has to be consistent.
Here are some ways to achieve that:
• Encourage kids to try something new. Art, music, sports, dance, summer camp, science clubs – a little time away from the electronics. Try to direct them toward some things where you know their success will come easily, but also let them choose options that will be challenging. It’s difficult to predict how new adventures will turnout, some will fizzle unexpectedly and what may appear to be a dead-end could be the beginning of a passion with no end.
• Acknowledge and compliment your children. When you notice moments of creativity, talent and genius, celebrate those milestones, accomplishments and improvements, but also acknowledge failures and attempts that don’t go well. Help them learn from their failures and see they are simply stepping stones on the path to success. The freedom to fail is vital to success.
• Honor and respect children’s ideas, knowledge and opinions. Kids today have more knowledge in some areas than many of adults (i.e. electronics). That’s great, sit back and let them be your teacher, as you honor this reversal of roles. Include them in family decision-making processes and responsibilities – with power comes responsibility is a valuable lesson.
• Tell your children you believe in them and their dreams. Show your love every day; the successful, the average and the days of frustrations and failure. Regardless of their direction, accomplishments or disappointments, let your children see you are always there to help guide them through the maze to reach the goals they have chosen.