This blog post has been contributed by Parenting Matters (http://parentingmatters.in/), a Chennai-based organisation which partners with parents to build skillsfor deeper connection in families. It provides platforms for parents to learn together with input from trained facilitators. It conducts programs, workshops and also aims at spreading awareness on parenting through articles for magazines, talks with experts and its blog.
In our parenting workshop, parents are always concerned about their child’s self esteem. “I want to know how to make my child confident.” “My child is so shy he will not talk to anyone.” “My child is too soft”… these are the concerns we hear.
What is self-esteem really?
Is it about being loud and aggressive? Is it about being willing to go on stage? Is it about being able to talk to the adults and mix with all the children at a party? Being bold? – It seems to us that this is what every parent wants for his child today. There is no room for a child who is soft or gentle. No room for a child who is a listener rather than a talker? There is a belief that only the aggressive will succeed. And that is viewed as high self-esteem.
Is that what we want – a society of loud and aggressive people? And do we believe that those who are bold and ready to jump into any situation truly have “high self esteem”? How do we know how they feel about themselves inside? Go for a kindergarten fancy dress and watch the mothers pushing their children to perform. What is the message that child gets – “My mother will like me only if I am ready to go on stage. And if I do not I am a failure.”
This brings us back to the issue of defining self esteem. Does high self esteem mean believing in yourself and being comfortable with who you are or does it mean being outgoing, competitive and forceful. If we believe the latter then we seek to give our child self esteem by constantly pushing our children? Such self-esteem is based on achievement – the child will constantly feel the need to achieve in order to feel good about himself. Without the medals and good marks his self-esteem collapses. He is a failure.
But if self-esteem is not based on external factors but comes from within, no one can take it away from your child. He is comfortable with himself and believes in his own capability. This child will truly be able to achieve his potential because he has been taught to look within rather than outside for guidance.