Raising children with healthy self-esteem is a goal for most parents. And with that goal in mind, the following exercises and discussions are designed to help children feel confident, responsible, motivated, and optimistic among their peers and with others. Taken one day at a time (though more than one can be discussed each day), these devices can establish and/or maintain healthy self-esteem while preserving a balance that prevents our children from becoming arrogant or from feeling insecure.
These steps are part of a “take action” program – to be printed, shared, practiced, and discussed. While biblical and other spiritual quotes support the reasons behind some of these approaches to building self-esteem, the steps to becoming self-confident are more spiritual in nature than they are religious. Becoming self-confident is about becoming other-aware and not about indulging in self-centeredness.
The focus of this self-esteem building program is on communicating with and listening to your children. Teachers can refine the program to fit within the guidelines of a classroom setting. Each step requires only about ten to twenty minutes per day, or it can take as long as you prefer. Before you begin to build self-esteem, though, you must first discuss with your children exactly what self-esteem is – that confidence in and respect for themselves is the most important factor in becoming loving, giving, and respectful adults.
1) Once the meaning of self-esteem has been discussed, it’s time to talk to your children about how they feel about themselves. Would they change anything about themselves if they could? Would they act differently?
2) Shyness can be a problem for many children, but even if it isn’t a problem for yours, this next exercise will help them become friendlier. On the playground or in school, tell them to introduce themselves to one other child who is the same age. Even young children sometimes fear approaching other children and this one friendly gesture could help build friendships. The practice will help build confidence.
3) Notice how your children talk to you. When they look deeply into your eyes, they are focusing on not only what you say, but also how you say it. If you find yourself straying from conversations with them, make it a point to really connect with your children by paying close attention to the things that matter to them. Make sure they have your undivided attention. It will teach them to respect their own opinions and give them the confidence to share theirs with others.
“I have learned silence from the talkative; tolerance from the intolerant and kindness from the unkind. I should not be ungrateful to those teachers.” (Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam)
4) Pay attention to those times when your children need help. Allow them to ask for your help. So often relatives and friends of adults who never asked for help discover too late that their friend or family members were too afraid to ask. Everybody needs help from time to time, but keeping problems inside can cause unforeseen problems. Children should know that asking for help is sometimes necessary and that they can rely on you for help.
5) Look for humor in various situations. Even when somebody dies, remembering the funny times, the fun times, and the memorable times allows your children to view what normally is a sad affair through a more positive lens. Share your memories. Laughter laced with tears soothes the soul.
6) Start paying attention to positive moments, even, and most especially, in the face of adversity. The more positive children feel, the more likely they will feel better about themselves and their lives.
7) Guilt is a heavy burden for children (and adults) to carry. It may be God’s way of nudging us to admit we might have hurt somebody. If you believe in God, tell your children that He/She lives in their heart and speaks through their conscience. Paying attention to their conscience will steer them in the right direction.
8) Truth is a difficult subject to discuss, because what is true for one person may not be true for another. Actual truth relies on facts but it also relies on judgments. And it often relates to perceptions. Open up a discussion about truth, judgment, and perception.
9) Talk about what it feels like to be hurt by somebody who is insensitive. Discuss forgiveness and talk about who might benefit from an apology. Apologies relieve us from feeling guilty.
10) Vengeance, retaliation, and blame are three ways children (and adults) avoid responsibility for the way they feel about being the target of unjust actions and unfair remarks. Ask your children if they have ever wanted to “get back” at somebody, and remind them that actions have consequences too. Sometimes another person’s guilt caused them to inflict pain by insulting and hurting us. But retaliating is like punishing, and the punishment is not ours to mete out.
“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. ”
“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.” (Robert G. Ingersoll)
11) Letting go of bitterness is never an easy task. But the inability to forgive is an even heavier burden to carry. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. We never know how much guilt the other person carries.
“How shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?” (Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)
12) So often people try to change their family members, thinking that it’s their job to remove perceived flaws. Discuss your perceptions of each other and learn to love each other for the way each one is and not for the way you want him or her to be.
“The beginning of love is to let those we love to be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” (Thomas Merton: No Man Is An Island)
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
13) Hug each other. Often. In the middle of the day, in the morning when you awaken, just before you retire at night, whenever you think about it, hug each other. Make the day a day of hugs.
14) Discuss what it felt like to feel the warmth of hugs all day the day before.
15) Believe that you are all gifted with a special talent. Maybe you haven’t discovered yet what that talent is, but believe that one day you will unearth that talent. Discuss with each other what you think the talents of other family members are or what you think they would be successful doing. Try to figure out what your own special mission is in relation to that talent. How will you use it to benefit yourselves, each other, and society?
16) Talk about why you shouldn’t judge others and about how nobody ever knows the whole story about another person. Maybe the person stealing food from the grocery store just lost her job and has no food to feed her children. While what she is doing is wrong, she probably sees no alternative to robbing and we should not judge her for her actions.
17) Explain how stereotyping is demeaning and degrading.
18) Discuss problems family members have with each other. Include everybody in the discussion. Brainstorm solutions and discuss the consequences and rewards for each person’s behavior without belittling or talking condescendingly to each other.
19) Visit or send a card to a lonely older person or somebody who is sick. If you don’t know of anybody who is sick, call the local homeless shelter or nursing home and “adopt” an older person or family.
20) Talk about how one person can make a difference. Refer to John Walsh who encourages people to do the right thing. Talk about how your individual talents can be the catalyst for change.
21) Show genuine appreciation to each member of the family. Praise each other for whatever reason comes to mind, present or past. Acknowledge each other’s accomplishments. Discuss the types of things that deserve praise and acknowledgement.
22) Talk about how opinions are not a matter of right or wrong and that each opinion counts. Teach your children how to value their own opinions by using facts to support them and not by repeating what others say. Make sure the opinions are really theirs and not somebody else’s and that they are not revealing an opinion only because they think what they are saying is something they think somebody else wants to hear.
23) Smile. Make an effort to use your facial muscles to smile. Alanon and AA have a saying, “Fake it until you make it.” Even if you are not particularly happy today, act like you are cheerful, optimistic, and enthusiastic.
24) Talk about courage and what it takes to be courageous. Discuss various fears that require courage. What frightens your children? Discuss with them solutions to their worst-case scenarios. Facing fears with courage builds strength of character. Strength of character builds self-esteem. Teach your children the importance of standing up for their beliefs.
“For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me…” (Job 3:25)
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
“…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ” (Philippians 4:31)
25) Adopt the “what you give out comes back to you” philosophy. Offer to do something to help somebody. Doing things for others actually helps build self-esteem, because it makes you feel good about yourself. Do whatever you can whenever you can to insure positive results.
26) Talk about how to treat others. But don’t just talk about it – be considerate, care about others, respect their rights, their opinions, and their property. Remember, actions really do speak louder than words.
27) Be knowledgeable and read good books. Learn about opportunities to discover your own special talents. Expose yourself to different learning experiences. Let your children discover who they are, even if it means discovering who they are not first.
“Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.” (23rd Psalm)
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7)
28) Talk about how being polite gets results. A simple please and thank you lets others know you care.
29) Teach your children to always seek ways to improve themselves and to take personal inventories. As adults, we too, should be aware of our shortcomings – if we don’t know what those shortcomings are, we should ask somebody who loves us. Have pride in everything you do. Pray to get rid of your shortcomings. Recognize your good qualities, and give prayers of thanks and appreciation for them.
30) Discuss the benefits of having a goal (any worthy goal) and sticking to it (long- and short-term).
“Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1Corinthians 2:9)
31) Discuss how complimenting or encouraging others motivates them.
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)
32) Teach your children patience – with themselves. If you ever watched a baby learn to walk, you know it takes many falls before baby finally walks.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart.” (Psalm 27:14)
“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard; that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of he earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
33) Don’t assume that people who love you know what you want simply because they love you. Teach young children to ask for what they need and not pout because they didn’t get what they didn’t ask for.
Ask and ye shall receive (first step) – but remember to be patient!
Seek and ye shall find (don’t expect things to come to you).
Knock and it will be opened (don’t just stand in front of a door and expect it to open – when you come to an obstacle, don’t retreat – figure out how to overcome it).
AFFIRMATIVE PRAYERS RELEASE POWERS BY WHICH POSITIVE RESULTS ARE ACCOMPLISHED – (1) Prayerize (2) Picturize (3) Actualize (Norman Vincent Peale: The Power of Positive Thinking)
Never use a negative thought in prayer. Only positive thoughts get results.
If you expect to succeed, you will succeed.
34) Pray – for family and friends – for those less fortunate than you – for those with power to influence, so they may make the right decisions.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive them.” (Matthew 21:22)
35) Have faith in yourself – God, your Higher Power, or whatever it is you call the deepest part of yourself that connects to others, believes in you.
“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
“According to your faith, be it unto you.” (Matthew 9:29)
“What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24)
“Have faith in God for verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:22-23)
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23)
36) Teach your children that when they are feeling so low, the only thing they can think about is their own problems, reach out to at least one other person. Now is the time to shift the focus from self to others.
“…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
37) Learn to be peaceful. Throughout the day, pause, take a deep breath, and relax. Remind yourself to take one moment for peace. In this fast-paced world, finding peaceful moments is like looking through a haystack for a grain of sand, but they are necessary.
“Fret not thyself…” (Psalm 37:1)
“Peace I leave unto you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)
“He leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:2)
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
“The peace of God which passeth all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)
“…a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4)
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)
38) Exercise, dance, or do something physically fun, like jumping, running, roller-skating, swimming, or even playing hide-‘n-seek. Fun time spent together lets your children know you love and value being with them. Energy begets energy and laughter, which is good for the soul, usually accompanies fun.
“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we shall rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)
“…in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
“…I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
39) Trusting God, our Higher Selves, or our Higher Power gives us more power because we know we don’t have to go through this life alone. We can feel better about ourselves because we know we are not just our bodies, but also our spirits, our minds, and our souls.
“The Lord is the strength of my life…in this will I be confident.” (Psalm 27:1,3)
“…if it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2)
40) Recognize the strength of two or more gathering together for one purpose. Know also when to leave someone behind. Hanging on to a friend who manipulates or exploits you is reason enough to leave that person behind. But like-minded individuals can gather strength from each other, and the more positive the strength, the more energy results.
“If two of you shall agree on Earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
“And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5)
41) Hope is a powerful tool in building self-esteem, because you never lose sight of the fact that more always awaits you. Share your hopes and dreams with your children and invite them to share theirs with you. When you lose hope, you lose your reason to live.
“…because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19)
“Why seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)
42) Create a ritual of sharing. Once a day, once a week, or once a month, make it a point to share something with each other. Whether it’s part of a snack, a card you designed, a special dance or song you created, or even just your thoughts, take some time to share and talk about the concept of sharing. If you attend a church or if you contribute money to a charity, discuss your reasons for sharing. Sharing is caring, and it feels good to know that something you are doing helps lift the mood of somebody else.
“There are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life and their coffers are never empty.” (Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet)
43) Take note of things you consider to be blessings. Start by acknowledging your children as blessings and continue to discuss all of the things in your life for which you are grateful. Ask your children to do the same.
“You pray in your distress; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy.” (Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet)
44) Maya Angelou once said something to the effect that when you look into your child’s eyes, make sure that child knows, without a doubt, that you love him or her. Ask your children how they feel about your love for them. Do you demonstrate your love for them in a way that lets them know with certainty that you love them, or do they need more hugs or more assurances from you? You won’t know unless you ask.
45) Make it a point from this day forward to compliment each member of your family every day. It forces you to focus on the positive and lifts the spirits of the person receiving the compliment.
46) Go over the exercises in this article and discuss with your children which ones they would like to repeat. Then make sure you repeat them.
47) If you have been following these steps all the way to #47, now is the time to discuss with your children any changes they’ve made since you began this program over a month ago. Do they feel more self-confident? Is your home happier? If so (and if not), repeat from #1.