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It's all about self-esteem

How can kids be encouraged to come smiling through turmoils and tensions? Meher Marfatia finds out.
Hindustan Times | By Meher Marfatia, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUN 04, 2008 05:56 PM IST

Forget the whirl of picnics, parties and Paanchvi Pass. Irony is, with such hi-jinks and fun fizzing around, this could still be the toughest time to be a child. Academic stress, peer pressure, high parental expectations and violent social conditions - Gen X faces it all.

How can kids be encouraged to come smiling through inner turmoil and outer tensions? With strong doses of self-esteem, it seems.

Set standard
The standard dictionary definition of ‘selfesteem' is: ‘a good opinion of oneself '. But such a free and easy emotion could actually be the trickiest to achieve.

Number 4 in Abraham Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs, self-esteem almost crowns the American psychologist's pyramid theory of human motivation. Not enough esteem results in great personal stress and feelings of inferiority, he has explained.

Poor self-esteem could lie at the core of much of the aggression children show now. It may lead to ego problems, attention-seeking behaviour, communication breakdowns and failed relationships in their years ahead.

Positive approach
Thanks to the growth of the women's movement, closer attention is paid to honing healthy self-esteem among girls. And as journalist Ammu Joseph says, "No boy with genuine selfesteem would ever grow up to harm a woman. The high prevalence of gender violence shows low self-esteem among men."

Simple steps go the long mile to enhance esteem. Dwell on the positives in a child, not the shortcomings. Encourage young talent without being pushy.

And praise effort, not results. Snap judgements and adjectives attached to chil dren like "Naughty boy" or "Good girl" repeat themselves, forming a pattern of negativity that causes problems over time.

Tip top
Even a supposedly positive label like "Clever child" rocks self-esteem by making the kid anxious to live up to that tag and feel inadequate when falling short by a bit.

Ruta Vyas, director of Amadeus Consulting, conducts motivating "I Love Me" workshops for youngsters. She shares three more tips to build self-worth.

First of all, "Know that life is not a contest". No doubt, we live in a competitive age. But children can be taught to accept that every person has a designated place in the world. Applaud being true to self. Let kids learn that self-esteem is not how people feel about you but how worthy you feel about yourself.

Next, "Reach out". This is a wonderful win-win situation everyone benefits from. Kids could share a skill they have, befriend the elderly volunteer for a social event. Any , thing that helps someone else generally leaves one feeling good.

Finally, "Keep all promises, down to the smallest" - this makes the youngest of children confident of seeing themselves as dependable and trustworthy. Respect for oneself starts right here.

Meher Marfatia has written 10 books for children and two for parents.

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