Once upon a time I prayed and asked God for a baby. My prayers were answered and I was blessed with the most amazing child. I remember holding my son for the very first time and staring in awe that something so perfect happened to me. He looked so fragile and my instinct was to protect him. No one was allowed to touch him without first dousing themselves in disinfectant, all his clothes were laundered in Dreft detergent, and he never left my sight unless it was absolutely necessary.
It’s been ten years since I first laid eyes on my baby boy. My instinct is still to protect him, so when he came home and told me that he was being teased at school and that the popular boy told everyone not to sit with him at lunch, I instantly wanted to call the parents of the kids involved and give them a piece of my mind. I wanted to run to the school and demand why the hell they let this go on. My son was hurting and I wanted to stop his pain. Watching him cry broke my heart. He is too old for pacifiers now and he is well past the age of kissing the boo-boo to make the pain go away. For the first time I couldn’t soothe my child and I felt completely helpless.
It was in that moment I realized I was no longer my son’s superhero. It wasn’t easy accepting the limitations of my mom powers, but doing so allowed me to give up the notion of being able to shield my children from all the hurts the world has in store for them. I could either cripple him by swooping in to save the day whenever he encountered obstacles, or I could arm him with the tools he would need to navigate the world on his own. I chose the latter.
Boosting his self-esteem became my main priority. The best thing you can do for any child is to nurture their self-esteem. Children who think and feel positively about themselves can cope with the natural ups and downs of life without buckling under pressure. When your child knows who they are, they are less likely to allow others to define them.
Of course my son didn’t want to sit down with me to be lectured about how he should ignore the kids at school when they said mean things. Let’s face it, although we would like to believe that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ that is pure rubbish. Words do hurt…and they can hurt for a LONG time.
I decided to do an activity with my son that I did with my students in the past. We made a self-esteem shield and he loved it! My son is big into Nerf Guns and Nerf wars so it was easy to explain to him how armor protects people when they are engaged in battle. I told him that if he wanted to protect himself against the kids who teased him at school, he needed to have a shield to protect his feelings. I expressed to him that his shield are the positive thoughts and feelings he has about himself.
We discussed all the things that make him special and important. Then we flipped through magazines to find pictures that represented how he felt about himself. We then cut a shield out of cardboard and decorated it with the pictures from the magazine. Pictured below is the end result of his hard work!
Working on the shield gave me the opportunity to see my son identify and own his strengths. This was definitely a proud mama moment. My husband and I always praise our children, but we never know if they internalize what we say or just brush it off as things moms and dads have to tell their kids. Seeing my son rattle off all the things that make him special showed me that he was listening to us, and more importantly, he believed what we were saying.
My daughter wanted in on the fun too but isn’t really into shields. After talking to her about what makes her special, she and I made a self-esteem sun. We framed her sun and every day I read the affirmation rays to her.
My six year old son is more into books so we worked on his Confident Me scrapbook. Each scrapbook page has a sentence completion box so the book is customized for him. We read the book together at bed time each night and it has made such a difference. My son struggles with school anxiety which interferes with his academic performance. Since we started reading his Confident Me book, he is coming out of his shell more at school. He went from not speaking to talking to a few friends and raising his hand occasionally during class. Baby steps, but still quite an improvement.
There are two things I know for sure. My kids won’t be kids forever and I can’t remove every obstacle from their lives. What I can do is provide them with the skills they need to best take care of themselves in those moments when I can’t do it for them. As my husband likes to remind me, we are not raising children, we are raising adults.
What are some ways you boost your child’s self-esteem?