Children need self-esteem to help them go through their developmental stages emotionally intact and with the resilience to handle the complex issues life may bring. Principle 5 is to value each child’s uniqueness and tell her about her special qualities: personality traits, physical attributes, special skills, strengths and positive behaviors.
The importance of telling your child about his or her special qualities
We have already established that children should be accepted as they are, but this is different. This is how we communicate that they are valued for who they are.
As we know, it is not good to compare children to anyone. Rather, each child should be supported for her unique accomplishments. In fact, a child should be made aware of her special qualities on a daily basis.
Moreover, we should be helping our children to learn to evaluate their own performance so they are not solely dependent on adult evaluations. For example, we can ask a child about her favorite stories or colors, or encourage her to compare her own activities over time to be aware of her improvement.
Labeling children by certain qualities
But be mindful of one aspect of this principle. Caregivers want to make sure not to label a child. The child who always hears that she is shy will continue to be shy; the child who hears that she is unkind will tend to act unkind. Children often live up to the labels that they hear from us.
Even positive labels can pressure a child to live up to the designation. If a child is told she is “very bright,” she may feel she must live up to that expectation. Then, if she had even a small misstep in school, she may feel like a complete failure.
In these types of situations, children may be pushed to be something they are not good at, and as a result their self-esteem will not be raised but lowered. Therefore, it is significant that we give children opportunities to do things they are good at and do not push them to be something they are not.
We also must acknowledge that there are some things that children must learn such as to speak and to walk. Every effort should be made to help children reach success in these areas.
The importance here is to catch our children doing something that is unique to them and make sure we tell them what we are observing about it.
It is uplifting and encouraging for them to hear that we are acknowledging their special abilities, uniqueness and growing capabilities. It is a great way to help them discover how they are positively contributing to their world and how they can achieve success in some areas that are exclusive to them. We all need to feel we can excel in some specific ways and be identified positively with those exceptional qualities.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Research taken from Pathways to Competence, Second Edition, Sarah Landy, p. 350-351.