Definition of self-esteem
The concept of self-esteem is based on our ability to think well about ourselves and to cope with what life has in store for us. Self-esteem is focused on whether we feel we are worthy and whether we feel we have a right to be who we are and to value who we are without being constantly criticised for who we are. The value we place on ourselves is critical to our sense of self worth.
Building self-esteem in your son is essential to him taking his place in this society as a valued member of this society, able to contribute meaningfully, effortlessly and willingly.
With so many pressures visited on our sons from a range of quarters it’s essential that they are encouraged to have minds of their own and to act on what they know to be right. For some, the idea of rightness, right thinking and right acting may be an old fashioned concept and yet I maintain it’s at the heart of building high self-esteem.
Central to the theme of rightness is acting for the good of all to the best of our abilities. These are high ideals I know and here are seven great steps to help moms engender this way of thinking in their sons (much of this is of course applicable to daughters as well).
1. Praise often, criticise rarely, if ever
With praise so many things are possible. Sons really get the impression they can do anything when they are praised and shown how to succeed. Have you noticed how joyous children are when they are really celebrated and told `well done’, `good boy’, `you can do it – brilliant’ and then how they wilt under scathing criticism – `bad boy’, `you’re useless’, `you’re rubbish and a waste of space’, `you are just like your father, you won’t amount to anything’.
Both ways are self-fulfilling prophecies – if you tell your son often enough that he is a waste of space and will amount to nothing good, then he will live down to that expectation. If on the other hand you tell him how great he is then he is more likely to live up to those expectations. I know these are quite simplistic observations of more complex ideas about the way we behave and yet I hope I’ve put across the message about the importance of praise, praise and even more praise.
Take every opportunity to let your son know when he is doing things well, no matter how small it is, no matter if you feel he should be doing it anyway. The more praise the better.
Criticism diminishes the soul. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. It makes us, even adults feel unworthy and not good enough. Imagine how your son would feel if he’s constantly criticised. A son that is constantly criticised has the ability to be a first rate bully. We know for the most part that bullies have low self-esteem and continued criticism helps to lead to a poor self-image.
I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t tell your son when he has done something wrong. Of course there is a place for this. The question is; how is this done? It can be done in a way that keeps their self-esteem intact. That is tactfully letting them know that their behaviour isn’t appropriate, whilst at the same time telling them know how you would like them to behave instead. Sit and talk to your son and find out how he feels about what you have said to him, this will help him to maintain his sense of self, his sense of wellbeing because he is being treated like he matters.
Praise your son early, often and throughout his life and just watch his face light up.
I sing a song to my son every night at the point of putting him to bed, with the words, `you are so beautiful to me, can’t you see, you are so beautiful to me’, my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy’ he loves it and just watching his face light up at `our’ song is a wonder.
Some `to do’ ideas
* Constantly look out for things your son is doing well and let him know how good he is and how much you love him.
* Tell him some of the things that you like about him specifically.
* Find out some of the things that he likes about himself and that he feels he’s good at.
2. Help to ensure your son understands and knows the power of his own mind (rather than bowing to peer pressure) The pressure is on boys and young men to conform to peer pressure, to follow the pack rather than taking mastery of their own mind.
What makes the difference between a follower and a leader?
A follower is someone who hasn’t a mind of their own, is insecure, rarely makes decisions, doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions and doesn’t respect themselves or others. A leader on the other hand is the opposite of all of these.
Ensuring your son understands the power of using his own mind is really important and it is necessary to nurture this at a young age.
Some of the things that will help have already been mentioned. To help your son to feel he is loved, this needs to be demonstrated to him every day through loving words and action, `I love you’ and a hug goes a very long way, particularly when done consistently. Allow your son to make age appropriate decisions. Not all decisions need to be in the hands of parents – so what if he wants to choose what pyjama’s he wears to bed tonight – that’s fine, let him make that decision. Decision making becomes easier the more we do it.
Let him know that all actions have consequences – if he chooses to behave well in school there is a consequence, usually a reward for that. If he chooses to behave poorly at school there is a consequence for that too, usually some form of punishment. He needs to know he has choices and that he will take responsibility for those choices throughout his life. Providing him with a loving, nurturing foundation will help him to make some of the more appropriate choices. I have a saying that I use with my son which is, `stop yourself’. The reason I use this expression is really to give him an insight at a very early stage that he is responsible for stopping or initiating appropriate action in his life.
Some `to do’ ideas
* Talk with your son about the peer pressure he faces in this society and how he feels about what should be done about it. This will support him to think through some strategies for himself if he feels under pressure.
* Engage in role play activities that help your son work through the alternatives.
2. Give age appropriate tasks
Instilling in your son a sense of responsibility at a very early age will help him to take responsibility later in life. Simple things such as taking the potty to the bathroom, setting the table, washing up, helping with the cooking, emptying the trash etc. helps to let him know life is about being responsible and that being responsible is actually quite easy and is managed one task at a time.
I know some of us as mothers think that we can get things done more quickly if we do it ourselves. And that may be partly true in the short term. In the medium and long term however if we teach our son age appropriate tasks then life becomes a lot easier and we teach them to take responsibility for themselves and their life at the same time.
Some simple and responsible tasks include, keeping their bedroom tidy, placing their dirty clothes in the linen basket, placing clothes in the washing machine. If some of these tasks are introduced early enough the children actual enjoy `helping’. I know as our sons get older `other’ incentives might need to be employed – seeing friends, going on outings, money, negotiations etc.
Some `to do’ ideas
* Every couple of days, give your son a new task to do – something that is a little more stretching than the previous task.
* Notice when you are getting a little impatient with the time he is taking to do the task – allow him that time and you get on with something else – this will be of great benefit to you in the long run.
3. Participate in games that build high self-esteem
Building self-esteem doesn’t always come easy, particularly if it wasn’t started at a very young age.
If you are able to, it would be great to get your son to sign up to societies/groups like, martial arts, boy scouts, youth clubs, mentor programmes and outward bound courses. These are great building blocks for increasing self-esteem. Here they get to take part in individual and group activities that help to stretch them beyond where they are.
These activities will help to instil a strong sense of self and achievement. The belief this will to give your son in himself really is the bedrock from which self-esteem springs.
One of the great things we can do as moms is to sometimes just get out of the way of our sons and watch them soar. Let’s be careful not to pass our own fears on to them, be brave enough to let them find their own level – to fall down and pick themselves up again.
In addition, games are a great way to support boys to build self-esteem……….
Here are some `to do’ game ideas to practice with your son:
* Boys are good at…………… I am good at…………….
* With your son’s agreement sit with trusted family members and tell your son all the wonderful things you and your family love about him – the one key `rule’ here is that all comments must be positive.
* If I knew it was impossible to fail, I would…………………………..(you and your son, independently can finish the sentence)
4. Your son can make age appropriate decisions with your help
Talk to him at a very early stage about decision making and why it is important to help in living the life he wants to live. Someone once said, `at the point of your decision your destiny is shaped’ and I do believe this to be true.
Making decisions and the decisions we make have a real impact and make a huge difference to our lives.
Decision making is a natural part of growing up, imparting this in our sons at an early age helps to enable them to take decisions as they get older.
Decision making can start at a very early age – do you want milk or water? Do you want to play with this toy or that? Who do you want to baby-sit for you – this auntie or that un
Some `to do’ ideas
* Each day ask your son to make a decision, make it a decision that you believe it will be easy for him to make
* Let your son you believe he is a good decision maker and that tell him how much you value his decisions
5. Develop your own self-esteem and show your son exactly what you mean
It’s really great to lead by example. How is your self-esteem? How do you feel about yourself? Do you feel you are a worthwhile and valuable person? How do you show this to your son?
If you know your self-esteem is on the floor, maybe there is some work you could consider doing on yourself. Our sons will learn from us, they will learn from what we say, from what we do, from what we say we are going to do, from what we say and don’t do. Be in no doubt, our children really do learn from us.
Some `to do’ ideas
* Read personal development books: any by Anthony Robbins, Iyanla Vanzant, Marianne Williamson, Norman Vincent Peale, Deepak Chopra and Shakti Gawain are great starting points.
* Enrol in some personal development workshops
* Establish a women’s group with your friends * Become part of an already established women’s group
* Do something your haven’t done before
6. Get to know your son and instil in him strong personal values Let your son know what you believe in and what your mission and vision is for your family. Let him know from an early age, using age appropriate language, so that he can to develop that mission and vision and fully sign up to the values you are keen to instil in him. Help your son to be proud to be male. There are lots of great role models out there, present day and throughout history. Let him know who they are. Role models will be different for different people and there no point in necessarily pointing them out here. Find those that fit with your value structure and let your son know about these role models and tell him why you consider them to be role models. Ensure that you don’t put men down around him (or at all if you can bear to help it). Remember they hear our negative comments about men and internalise it. They can feel worthless. As we love our sons dearly, this is not what we really want to be doing. Labelling is a very powerful process, it can build self-esteem and it can shatter it. Support your son by having positive male role models around him. If you feel there aren’t any in your immediate surroundings then there are a good number of mentors. Better still; enrol him in a mentor programme. Here are some great examples of personal values: aspire to be the best you can be, dedication and commitment to all you choose to do and be, communicating respectfully, treat yourself and others well, family is important and respect the diversity in that our world offers.
Some `to do’ ideas * Draw up a list of personal values that you believe are important.
* Write up this list and place it at strategic points around your house.
* Review your personal values every six months or so and make sure you feel they are still current – you may wish to add or delete!!!!!!!!
7. Your son must know you are his safety net if he falls Your son really does need to know that if all else fails and mistakes are made (as they inevitably will); he won’t go completely crashing to the ground. Ultimately he needs to know you are there for him and will support him in whatever way you can. Hyacinth Fraser Author Live playfully, powerfully and lovingly
Hyacinth is a Master NLP Practitioner and Master Hypnotherapist. She also has a M.A. in Social Policy and Administration
In addition most recently she has started a parenting website, with a key focus on single mothers raising sons. She is a mother of a two year old son.
She has written an ebook – Discover how you can be a great single mother to your son by following these 101 strategies and tips to great parenting.