Building a Child's Self-Esteem
by Mildred M. El-Amin
"O ye people! Worship your guardian
Lord, Who created you and those before you that ye may become
Family Life Question:
"Children frequently express feelings of not being liked by other children and not being able to do things before making an attempt. What are some ways to encourage self-confidence in children?"
Children who are morally and spiritually conscience develop a sense of their own self-worth. Helping our children develop healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things that parents can do for them; it is the foundation of their faith and commitment to Allah. Children need to be assured that they are a special gift from Allah and they are to dedicate their talents and resources to Thy service--this gives them value, purpose and direction for life. Through every phase of a child's development, they need provisions for moral and spiritual enrichment that encourages them to truly reverence Allah and to thus value the beauty in themselves.
"We have indeed created man in the best of molds." (Quran 95:4) There is no fault in Allah's creation; to man, Allah gave the purest and best nature. Our duty is to preserve, and nurture the distinctive character that Allah has created.
Healthy feelings about oneself or high self-esteem is best started in the home, and this needs to be cultivated in our children from birth. Thankfulness for who Allah has made us to be is based primarily on how our parents or guardians view us. Children mirror others' perception of them; they measure themselves by the standards set by those shaping their lives. A child needs our unconditional love. While we may show disapproval of wrong actions, the child still needs to feel cherished. We are guided: "...truly no one despairs of Allah's soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith." (Quran 12:87) Our unconditional compassion for our children will promote and encourage their faith in Allah and instill the thinking that "I am lovable, I am confident."
Persons with healthy self-esteem are more capable of making decisions; they exhibit thankfulness for their accomplishments, are willing to take responsibility, and are better able to cope with stressful situations. They meet and feel enthusiastic about challenges. Often a student with a high IQ and low self-esteem will do poorly in school, while a child with average ability and high self-esteem will excel. The thinking that is cultivated in a person in the early years affects his entire life.
The National PTA along with the March of Dimes has developed a program called "Parenting: The Underdeveloped Skill" to help parents learn to better communicate with their children and to nurture their youngster's self-esteem. Some steps they outline include: "1. Showing kids how to communicate their feelings, openly and honestly, is a good place for parents to start. Children need to know that even anger and fear are to be appropriately expressed rather than bottled up. Because children learn by example, parents must let their feelings be known. 2. Listening--truly listening to children is a second key to developing good self-esteem. Having parents listen not only enhances children's good feeling about themselves, it also teaches them...(to be caring). 3. Teaching how to get along with others through negotiation and compromise is important. 4. Establishing fair, consistent discipline is one of the other building blocks of good self-esteem. 5. Giving children responsibilities--tasks that are meaningful and 'do-able' and that they can be accountable for also builds self-esteem. 6. Permitting children to make decisions (even an occasional wrong one) helps them learn good judgment. 7. Keeping a sense of humor is important. It can work wonders and helps children keep perspective on what is important. 8. Treating children lovingly, with both respect and courtesy, helps children learn that they are beautiful and worthwhile people. Parents, treat them the way you yourself want to be treated." The Parenting: The Underdeveloped Skill kit is available through the Chicago office of the National PTA. (8)
When we build a warm and friendly relationship with our children, we establish the best opportunity for imparting strong moral and spiritual values to them--the key to high self-esteem.
8. Self Esteem--the key to success in school and in life, " The National PTA-87, A Special Red book Section, (The Hearst Corporation, 1987) pgs. 36-42.
The previous article is reprinted by permission from Family Roots: The Quranic View of Family Life, by Mildred M. El-Amin, 1991, pp. 116-118, 220.