Smiling young girl

Encouragement, Self-Esteem and Self-Discipline

November 19th, 2013

“Children who are truly loved unconsciously know themselves to be valued. This knowledge is worth more than gold…The feeling of being valuable—‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline. It is a direct product of parental love.”–M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

We have this amazing opportunity as parents to be loyal supporters and advocates for our child. We have this wondrous chance to enhance their self-esteem and make them feel loved and loveable as well as capable and confident.

I once read about a tribe in Africa where, if a person misbehaved, the entire tribe gathered in a circle surrounding that person and began telling stories. The stories were all positive stories about that person’s good deeds, character traits, and wise decisions in the past. Sometimes the story-telling went on for hours or even days. After every villager shared a story about the person in the middle of the circle, the ritual ended. The person was  enriched and changed by the stories.

I truly believe that everyone, at any given moment, is doing the best they can. I am doing the best I can, my child is doing the best they can. Neither of us is perfect. But we are trying. And we need to be a team and support our best efforts, perfect or not.

Children who feel good about themselves are often self-disciplined. Solid self-esteem leads to stronger self-discipline and fewer discipline struggles.

Young children want what every person wants: to be deeply understood and to be deeply appreciated. It is crucial that you acknowledge both who your child is and what your child does.  The challenge in using encouragement or positive reinforcement to change our child’s behavior is that we must first change our own behavior and be conscious about catching our child being good. And, for your young child, acknowledging the process can be as important as acknowledging the product.

 “Jeremy, you carried those heavy plates off the table and put them next to the sink. I really needed that help from you.”

“You waited and waited for me to get off the computer so that you could ask me a question. You were very patient, Rena.”

Two excellent books addressing these issues are: “The Magic of Encouragement: Nurturing Your Child’s Self-Esteem,” by Stephanie Marston and “Your Child’s Self-Esteem,” by Dorothy Corkille Briggs.

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