Every parent wants their children to feel good about themselves. There is a good reason for that; most psychological problems in adult life stem from a lack of good self-esteem. Here is a story from my own life that shows what kind of parenting is needed to build good self-esteem in children.

Some time ago, I came home from work and walked in the house to discover that my 3-year-old daughter was standing on a window sill. (Now this was not a really high window sill, or one that posed any real danger.)

She saw me and said, ìLook at me daddy!î

Now I could have reacted to this in any one of a number of different ways. (I'm only telling this story because it was one time that I reacted OK. I'd be too embarrassed to tell you about the thousands of times that I have reacted in a less-than-ideal way.)

If I would have seen this as my daughter attempting to undermine my authority, I would have gotten into a power struggle with her, and said, "Get down from there this instant, young lady!"

Or if I would've reacted with fear, thinking -- oh my, Iím responsible for her well being, what if something goes wrong -- I might have shrieked, "Get down, you're going to kill yourself!"

If I would've been distracted and self-absorbed, I might have ignored her completely.

But what was my daughter looking for? She wanted to be seen, to show me that she was good at something, and to connect with me. There were many things in life that she could not do as well as she would have liked yet; for example, she could not yet draw a perfect circle. But this was something she could do well, and she wanted me to see it.

And because I was lucky enough to be in the right state of mind that day, I was able to respond and say, "Look at you!"

When she heard that, she immediately got down.

What would my young child have learned about herself had I responded in one of those other ways? If I had responded with anger, she would have learned that she is bad. If I would have responded with fear, she would've learned that she is incapable. Had I responded by ignoring her she would've learned that she is unimportant.

Most importantly, she would have experienced a break in connection to me. Enough breaks like that would leave her feeling empty inside and bad, inadequate, and unimportant. These are the keys to self-hatred and low self-esteem.

In responding how I did, she felt a sense of connection. In some small way she got her fundamental needs met. She felt seen, important, good, and capable. Best of all, she felt loved. Enough of those experiences build the foundation for good self-love and the capacity to love others. The quality of our parenting goes far in building their self-esteem.

Author's Bio: 

Glenn Berger, PhD,is a psychotherapist with 15 years experience in private practice. His invention, "Shrinky" gives you virtually what any good psychotherapist offers:

Support - All the information you need.
Advice- Ask Shrinky any questions about the issues of life.
Wisdom - Inspiration to help you on the journey.
Love - Connection, understanding, empathy, and acceptance.

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