When this Halloween arrived, I recalled childhood memories of walking the streets in our neighborhood with my friends, running up the front lawns instead of using the walkways, racing to the front porch and ringing the door bell…waiting for the door to be opened by someone holding a hand full of candy to toss in my bag while I shouted, “Trick-or-Treat!”
I look at her face glowing with kindness and I smile back at her big smile that is as bright as that carved jack-o-lantern on the front porch. “Here you go, Princess!” she said, while handing me several pieces of candy.
I remember wearing a princess costume that my mother had sewn for me. It was a pale pink color and really puffy…made with yards and yards of itchy tulle that scratched my legs whenever I moved. I disliked the itchy tulle but I loved the feeling of being a princess and felt beautiful and special while wearing it…over a pair of thick tights! Mom made a princess crown cut from poster board and using a plastic bottle of white glue, sketched a design of swirls and diamond shapes onto the crown. She quickly sprinkled multi-colored glitter all over the shapes of glue. Mom said every princess crown should have jewels so she added a puddle of glue at each point of the crown and then poured on red, blue, and green glitter creating sparkling ruby, sapphire and emerald jewels. I thought the crown was beautiful and perfect and I was very pleased. I couldn’t wait to wear the gorgeous princess crown. It seemed to take forever for the glue to dry!
A Child’s Self-Esteem Fluctuates
With rosy cheeks and blue eye shadow, I thought I was dressed in the perfect costume for Halloween. I was having a lot of fun collecting candy from neighbors and everyone told me I was a beautiful princess. I was feeling very princess-like. That is until I met “Mr. Grumpy.” There he was, standing under a dim front porch light that cast grey shadows over his face, which only made his snarling expression look very creepy.
With his hands on his hips and with a gravelly voice he asked, “Who are you supposed to be?” “I’m a princess,” I bashfully answered. “Bah! You’re no princess!”, He said looking down at me. “You’re a mean queen! He tossed some candy in the bag I was holding and I quickly turned to run away. “There goes the mean queen!” I heard him shout with more laughter.
Feeling bruised by his words, I became irritable and disliked the man for ruining Halloween for me. Even though just a few minutes before I had felt very much princess-like, those four words, “You’re a mean queen” was repeated over and over again in my head and soon began to make a negative imprint upon my thoughts and feelings. I returned home only to pout and fume and be grumpy and mean towards my family.
4 Ways to Help Your Child Build Self-Esteem
Identify your child’s irrational beliefs about themselves. A child’s self-esteem fluctuates and is frequently changed and fine-tuned through experiences and new perceptions. For parents, it helps to be aware of the signs of both healthy and unhealthy self-esteem in your child. When your child suffers a blow to his self-esteem, it’s important to validate his feelings; acknowledge that your child was offended by the comment. Be aware if your child has given others the power to shape his or her self-perception. It’s important for you to identify your child’s irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or based upon another person’s opinion of them.
Authentic self-esteem should be shaped in the home. Children with a healthy self-esteem place value on themselves that is both positive, and at the same time, realistic. Children with a healthy self-esteem are also able to handle a reasonable amount of negative experience. While some amount of teasing is unavoidable, you have an opportunity to teach your child that their view of themselves should not be shaped entirely by outside forces. An authentic self-esteem is not determined by an outward appearance or by hearing praise or compliments from people.
If a child doesn’t feel accepted by their parents, they’ll look for acceptance from their friends. Dr. Kevin Leman says, “Your unconditional acceptance of your child means everything in her development.” If you want to send a strong message to your child that he/she is accepted, listen and ask questions to show you care about their interests and feelings. It is the parents who create the foundation for a child’s sense of self through all of their experiences, especially words and actions. Children are far more motivated to learn, cooperate, and be loving when they feel connected, cared about, and valued. Pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears said it best when he wrote, “What children believe about themselves is at the heart of what they become.”
Tell your child on a regular basis that God loves them unconditionally. And tell your children on a regular basis that you love them no matter what. As parents, we are able to stir a change in our child’s heart and thought life by teaching the gospel, modeling the gospel, and centering our homes on the gospel. Another great way to help a child to think differently, is to pray with your child. Talk to God together about the hurt feelings, pray for the offender, ask for God’s forgiveness for having a bad attitude, and especially thank Him that she is a child of the King, a real princess!
What are some ways you have helped your child develop a healthy self-esteem?
Helpful References:  kidshealth.org  askdrsears.com  focusonthefamily.com  Gospel Powered Parenting by William P. Farley  Building Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down by Kevin Leman  yeahyeahoutloud.com