Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Helping a childs self-esteem

Today, I'm going to tackle a topic that has recently added some salt to a fresh wound.

Bullying.  But more than physical.  Verbal bullying.

My oldest son is the youngest (by far) in his all day K class.  As he was turning 5, the bulk of his peer group was turning 6.  I'm sure many of you parents have been faced with a tough decision on whether to send your child to school early, or wait.  Our decision to send early was affirmed by our son's teacher.  D has no problem with the material, the mastery of it, or any of the needed skills.

But - and there is always a but - I'm not kidding myself.  A year less of maturity, intra personal problem solving and just physical growth, does put D in a difficult position.

D is short for his age, which is amplified when he's around kids older than him.  He is gregarious, and often quite loud, which I suspect is his defense mechanism to stress.  Let me be nice to everyone, so no one will try to hurt me.

It recently stopped working. And stopped my heart cold.

D has been more physical recently than in the past.  That's him telling us something.  But we couldn't figure it out.  Yesterday, he was as crystal clear as any toddler could be - not about a tormentor, but about what the tormentor has made him feel.
Mater the Tormentor -

We love the song "Love's the Only Rule" by Bon Jovi.  And I use that title instructively.  Just one rule to remember - love everyone.  That way there's no hitting, etc.  D shocked me.

Sad D voice - "Dad, I don't HAVE A HEART."
courtesy of

He reiterated it a couple of times.  Each more melancholy than the first.  He wouldn't rat anyone out (and I'm ok with that) but it was quite clear that this has been said to him, by someone he either values or respects (in a K kinda way.)

The echo through my brain of those words continues to reverberate.  I can do something though.

First, I am thankful that he could tell me something that isn't couched in a lie.  What do I mean by that?  Kids lie from time to time, usually when questioned directly.  But here I take credence in this words, because they were unsolicited and unprompted.  That adds up to truth, per my invisible Daddy Stuff manual.

Second, this gives me a clear teaching path to improve his self-esteem.  What can and will I do?

1.  Reinforce the positive and "love" behaviors more consistently and more often. 
2.  Practice, Practice, Practice the right intra personal behaviors for him to fall back on.
3.  Reward failure by rewarding effort.  This does NOT mean to give a trophy to a kid for just showing up.  D understands quite well that we expect him to do his best if he tries something.  It may not always lead to him being the star at something, but he is a star to us and himself if he gives it his all.
4.  Be clear that no matter what, Mommy and Daddy Stuff love him.

So readers (all six of you!) - what have you done to help your childs self esteem?  Let me know in the comment section!

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