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Developing Self-Respect in Children

 Untitled Document by K. Filiz Sasaoğlu

Teaching children to gain self-respect improves their skills to learn, love and be creative. Self-respect is closely related to happiness and success in life. According to some philosophers, self-respect is a combination of both good education and the love they get from their parents.

Having a high degree of self-confidence makes children creative and loving individuals. Children need to believe that they are valued. They also need to be happy in their own environment and with themselves. The way you develop your child's skills/talents will directly effect his future.

Parents need to provide children's first basic needs in developing self-esteem. What can parents do to make their children feel loved and talented? Here are the ways to improve self-respect:

Make sure they understand no matter what they do they are valued and accepted for who they are. Home is like a loving sanctuary to children, protecting them from the dangers and risks of the outside world. Make sure you say I love you; (even if your room is untidy, even if your sister is more athletic than you are, even if we don't like the way you behave sometimes) the message must be: I love you no matter what.

You can also start a conversation by stating what he does right. For example: If his room is untidy, but if his bed is made, you can say :"I am really happy that you made your bed. What I would like from you now is to clean up your desk."

You are angry because your 4 year old threw his ball toward the crib in which his baby sister is asleep. How do you express that this is not an appropriate behavior?
Instead of saying "you're a bad boy!" or "are you stupid?" You might say:
1) When you behave like this/ I feel……………………..
2) You really could have hurt your sister.
3) When you throw your toys like this, I feel nervous.
The message that you have to convey here is that it is not he, it is his behavior that is not appropriate. You also need to let your child know what is and what isn't the suitable behavior. For example: "You mustn't throw your train at your sister's crib. Instead, you can show her your train when she wakes up."

Explaining clearly what you want from them will help them understand what is expected of them.

Everything children do is worth listening to and observing. When you listen and respond it will help with their self-respect. If you do not have time when she tries to tell you something, just tell her you don't have the time at the moment, but tell her when you will be available. Or, you can basically tell her that you heard and understood her.
Example: Conversation between a 7-year-old girl and her father

Daughter: Dad, I am very angry with you and I don't want you to come in my room anymore.
Father: You are really angry, aren't you?
Daughter: Yes, because you promised me that you would take me to skating and it is too late to go now.
Father: I understand. I did not keep my promise and that is why you are angry with me. I am really sorry. I worked late and I forgot to call you. Can we do it tomorrow?

Parents start seeing things from their child's point of view by active listening. This helps a child recognize that his/her feelings are important to their parents, and thus boosts their sense of worth.

Instead of rejecting/ridiculing your child's fears and negative feelings, try to take them seriously and let them beat their fears and find their own way of conquering them.

Below is an example of a father and his son who is afraid of monsters:

Son: Dad, I can't go to bed, because there are monsters hiding in my room.
Dad: Come on let's go together. May be we can make friends with them. Do you know what monsters like to eat?
Son: Maybe cookies?
Dad: They may like that. Let's put some cookies in your room for them. Ask them what they like, will you?
Son: No, they want to scare people.
Dad: Why?
Son: Because they want to feel strong.
Dad: If you are his friend, what can he do for you?
Son: He can protect me.
Dad: Sounds to me like a monster could make a good friend, doesn't it?
Son: Yes.

As a result of this type of dialog, parents learn about their children's needs and children learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. In this case, the child learned the monster does not have any affect on him. More importantly, he learned to project the monster's strength on himself.

When children do bad things, they need attention. When they do good things they need appreciation. Even if it is a daily routine chore, it makes it more valuable when you show your appreciation/approval.

An example of how you can show your appreciation; a family dinner. Everybody can share what they learned or accomplished that day with one another. Parents show that they approve/appreciate children's success by participating in this activity. If you have a child who is having some problems you can make him feel better by saying things like:" I saw you tie your shoe laces all by yourself today. Great job!". Or, you can put little loving messages in his room telling him how much you love him. This helps him understand that he is appreciated and loved.

For most parents, time they spend home is limited. However experts agree that it is very important to spend time with your child alone. Maybe a breakfast on a Sunday morning and a short walk in the park alone with your child will do. Sometimes it is also helpful to play with his toys and play by his rules as his play mate.
You need to spend extra time alone with him especially if he's jealous of his new sister or brother.


Parents naturally try to help children with their difficulties, but the role of helper doesn't always aid. The unconscious message "you can't do it" brings the connotation that the child himself isn't good enough. Try to encourage autonomy. This will also offer them the opportunity to discover and develop their own tastes.

If they should ask you for your help, try to encourage them to do it themselves. For example; "Come on then, let's see if you can button this shirt by yourself" or as offer a suggestion "Buttons can be tricky, it might be easier if you tried pushing the button through with your thumb."

Parents are very often in control of the personal possessions they buy for their children, books, toy, etc. As well as it being the parents who decide when the very same books and toys need to go to the attic for storage. As your child grows, you may believe that a particular object isn't needed any more. However for him or her it may still be important for years to come. Accept this reality, and you'll both benefit from it.

The act of asking your child's opinion about something permits you to understand her feelings, her point of view, and also demonstrates that her opinion is important. For example, you may ask her what she'd like to wear for an occasion, or what she'd like to do that afternoon. Naturally you won't be agreed all the time, but in this case it is effective to give her your reasons. This will permit her to realize that her ideas and opinions are significant.

All new knowledge and new discoveries permit your child to reinforce his or her abilities. In the case of very young children, we should not only accept all the little victories, but permit as well circumstances that facilitate success. For example, with a new video game or gymnastic routine, and the message is passed "You are capable and have your own knowledge." Another example, demonstrate the he or she is capable of waking up the morning all by themselves with the help of an alarm clock, or ask their opinion about your next birthday purchase for a friend. Solicit their help as well with to accomplish a chore together; you may even learn something from them.

Hugging and caressing by the parents help children developing self-respect. The children are very sensitive against non-verbal attitudes. In order to say "I love you" express your love with your approach like kissing, hugging etc.

It would be wise no to stand while speaking with children. Because when you are standing up he will not only feel that he is small but also believes that there is a great distance between the parent and the child. Therefore always try to sit or crouch down or raise the child to your eye level when addressing to him. This enables a closer communication.

When the words and attitudes of the parents conflict when expressing something, contradictory messages appear. For example, if you say, "I love you." in an angry voice and without looking his face or telling the child that if he is scared he can come to your room at night, however to get angry with him when he comes, may cause contradictions. Fist of all you should be honest to the child. If you are angry you should let him know that. You should keep your promises. Your demands and rules should be clear. You should express how you feel or what you think. You also should be careful your words and your body language comply with each other.

When the parents share their feelings (even the ones that hurt), they encourage the child to accept his own experiences and feelings. If parents share their memories, or the moments they enjoyed, scared or hurt, how they met each other, what it is like to have children like telling a story, then the child will know his parents better. Sharing the family stories with the child, enable him to be proud of his roots.

Parents must discover their children's talents and help the child recognize them as well. By doing so, you can give a child who enjoys poems a chance to be creative and express himself, or a tall girl an opportunity to focus on sports.

The most important way of improving self-esteem in children is to make them feel loved and talented. Our actions and manner of speaking will demonstrate this to them every day.

K. Filiz Sasaoglu, an expert pedagogue, has over 15 years experience in the education field. She is a graduate of Gazi University, and holds a Master's Degree in Family Health from Istanbul Tıp Fakültesi. She is currently the director of the Afacan preschool, in Beykoz, Istanbul.


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Latest comments about this article

 By monica yildirimer  23.6.2005

Thank you for your article Filiz Hanim. Is it possible to have information on the Afacan preschool?

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