Healthy Kids    

Self Esteem – every child needs a healthy dose

How to make sure your kids have plenty

Make sure to nurture your child's self-esteem

I hated Sundays at my Aunt Dorothy’s house. Every time we visited, she would embarrass me because I was a bed wetter. Right in front of the whole family she would say, “Have you stopped wetting your bed yet? You’re too old to do that.” My mother was too timid to speak up, and my father was so intimidated by his older sister that he too never said anything to defend me. I dreaded going to her house, because I knew how she would make me feel. And I was only five years old!


My Aunt Rose, on the other hand, loved to visit my sister and me. She treated us as though we were the most precious little girls in the world. She made us feel good about ourselves, so we loved to be with her. Did it occur to anyone back in those days (I’m talking the late 1940s and 50s!) that feeling good about ourselves was the force that would drive us to do our best? Today, self esteem is an issue that teachers and parents are more cognizant of, so much so that child psychologists and school administrators are structuring programs that cultivate a child’s confidence, therefore, his or her self esteem.

Anita Manley's Aunt Rose treated her and her sister like they were most precious little girls in the world.

Special Education teachers learn the skills needed for creating lesson plans that nurture success in school. “Many successful teachers utilize hands-on tasks and activities which lend themselves to their students learning and mastery,” said Marge Corrieri, a retired administrator for Special Education in the Wallkill School District. “Providing early stage success for a student helps to encourage further effort as lessons get more difficult. Planning carefully so that students are given lessons that are appropriate for their mastery level is also essential,” she said. “Special education teachers also use repetition and structured, guided practice to assist retention particularly where new learning is involved.”


Parents, of course, hold the keys to a child’s success, says Paul Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Mt. St. Mary College. It starts at the beginning of life, he said. “The child recognizes his value on the changing table,” he adds. “‘I see joy, I see love, I must have value’. That sense of value, that level of stability, is something that is really unchangeable. That’s the hypothesis that the child has of himself.”

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As the child grows, he needs a support base, said Schwartz. “That’s like the foundation and the frame of a house. Help the child reach his potential, constantly be there and support the child in difficult times – but don’t do it for him.”

Most kids have a healthy dose of self esteem, said Schwartz, but then there is the other extreme: the reality that over protecting a child from disappointment, anxiety and failure can encourage narcissism or self absorption. Narcissism is often fostered in our culture, said Schwartz. “It’s the culture that wipes their behinds for them when they can do that themselves; its parents who hover over their kids leading them to believe they can never fail and embedding in them a sense of entitlement.”


“Kids need to experience failure to grow,” adds Schwartz. “That’s the art of parenting. If you never experience failure or stress, you’re left vulnerable with no coping strategies.”

Anita Manley is a freelance writer living in Newburgh.