A Simple but Sensible Tip for Preserving Self-Esteem

A Simple but Sensible Tip for Preserving Self-Esteem

We all know how important it is to nurture a young child’s self-esteem.  But how, exactly, are you supposed to do that?  It seems like books, magazines, web sites, and professionals have at least a million-and-a-half recommendations for mothers and fathers.  One has to wonder why, with all this apparently good advice available, a lot of little kids suffer from issues centered on low self-esteem.

There are some obviously good ideas, such as not belittling a child and praising him when he does something good.  Unfortunately, children do not always do good things and occasionally require some correction and guidance.  So how do you provide that without making the child feel bad about himself?

What I have always found to be sensible, effective, and relatively easy to implement is a simple rule: when your child does something improper, make sure you criticize the behavior instead of him.  In other words, as opposed to what may be a natural inclination to say, “You’re a bad boy,” point out to him that “You did a bad thing.”

When your child misbehaves, it is perfectly understandable that you may find it impossible to refrain from being annoyed, frustrated, or angry.  And it is unfair and unrealistic for you to “hold it in” all the time.  However, by labeling the behavior rather than the child, you avoid encouraging him to develop the notion that he possesses an inherently unpleasant personality.  More importantly, you leave him with the clear impression that you believe he is capable of behaving properly and is not incorrigible.

Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll.  After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project.  He may be contacted via e-mail at drmike@romproll.com.