Good choices flow from healthy self-esteem. Children who feel good about themselves know they are valued, feel confident, and feel ready to take on everyday challenges. One of those challenges could be making the right choice between engaging in a risky behavior or not.
Conversely, a child with low self-esteem lacks confidence, feel insecure and, as a result, be easily influenced by peers to use a “quick fix” purported to make them feel better about themselves.
SAFE in Sag Harbor is there to help our children make the right choices and avoid influences that may put them at risk. Part of that is building healthy self-esteem. As I travel locally and across the nation giving presentations on making good choices, the biggest challenge young people express is the struggle to feel confident and strong. They feel constant pressure from so many sources.
A 2006 study titled “Low Self-Esteem During Adolescence Predicts Poor Health, Criminal Behavior, and Limited Economic Prospects During Adulthood,” noted that it has been “theorized that children and adolescents with low self-esteem seek out various forms of antisocial behavior as a way of enhancing their self worth.” Moreover, the study noted that “low self-esteem children and adolescents may also receive less attention and support from parents, teachers and peers. For example, a low self-esteem child may appear quiet and withdrawn and may not be willing or able to ask a teacher for help with needed.”
So where does positive self-esteem come from? It comes from positive experiences that help a child feel capable, effective and accepted (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html#). It is not the result of praise for every action but rather learning from mistakes and understanding that hard work and practice pay off.
Four ways you can help your child develop positive self-esteem are:
1. When teaching how to do things, show and help your child at first, but then allow mistakes. Don’t make new challenges too easy (or difficult).
2. Use praise but avoid too much. Praise effort rather than the result.
3. Avoid harsh criticism and focus on strengths.
4. Be a good role model. Yes, it always comes back to this.
Kym Laube is the program director of SAFE in Sag Harbor, a community-based organization dedicated to creating a substance-abuse-free environment in Sag Harbor, safeinsagharbor.org