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The building blocks for letting my child blossom
- self image
By: Elizabeth Oosthuizen Psychologist
Our children are born into our lives as special
gifts. It is our task to guide and parent them into
becoming those unique individuals they are intended
to be. A seed for growth are received the day we
meet them for the first time. Our task as parents
is to nurture, water and give nutrients to this
seed, so it will grow into a beautiful blossoming
tree. While it is growing we must sometimes give
extra minerals, or less water, or prune a bit -
this is all part of parenting with the goal to let
our child becoming the individual they are born
What an overwhelming task this can be sometimes?!
As parents we do realize that parenting our child
is an extremely important task. We all hope that
the way we parent and guide our children will assist
them into developing emotional wellness and that
they will have a true image about who they are.
In this article I am therefore giving guidance and
ideas on how to build your unique child's self-image
Firstly and most importantly is for you as parent
to accept your child unconditionally. All children
present with characteristics and behaviours we love
and appreciate about them, but also with some that
we detest. Embracing all these flowers and thorns
in their beings will make them feel loved and accepted.
During the growing up years especially, we as parents
must try and focus and give positive motivation
towards those beautiful characteristics. The thorn-behaviours
we must try and prune, but not prune it in such
a way that the negative behaviour does not exist
anymore. Sometimes these difficult behaviours will
assist them in their interactions as adults.
Love and attention do not spoil babies or toddlers.
The more warmth and acceptance, the better. Children
should be allowed to say 'no' to situations where
they can exercise choice. In this way, their autonomy
is respected, and they do not feel rejected if they
do not agree with you. Statements like "children
should be seen and not heard' should be avoided.
Children feel loved and wanted and secure when they
experience unconditional positive regard. We must
try and communicate basic acceptance of them as
individuals even if we don't like certain behaviours.
Children should be encouraged and praised for being
who they are, for being self-reliant and acting
in a natural way. Compliment and name the behaviours
or actions you are proud of as a parent. We are
sometimes so good at seeing all the things our children
does 'wrong', make it your goal as a parent to find
those behaviours and actions you child does present
which are positive and compliment them immediately.
At times ignoring the negative behaviours can also
work very well during parenting. Research has shown
that children present with those behaviours that
seem to receive attention from important adults
Children should not be overprotected and told 'no'
or 'stop' frequently. Self-confidence is not built
by making all decisions for children, being too
strict, having overly high expectations, or teasing
and belittling them. Strengths and achievements
should be frequently pointed out to them, with pride.
For our children to experience a truthful self-worth,
it is important that we develop their emotional
intelligence. The following are examples of emotional
Awareness of own and others feelings;
Being able to express inner feelings;
Sensitivity towards the thoughts and feelings
Ability to cope with difficult emotional
situations in an age-appropriate way;
To know that they are in control of their
feelings and can choose how to respond to
a given situation;
Have the courage to take a risk, to be unique,
to love themselves; and
The ability to experience failures as a learning
Children learn about expressing or suppressing feelings
in the family. The way, we as parents, react to
them when they experience intense emotions will
determine whether or not they are comfortable with
feelings in general. Here are some ideas how to
develop your child's emotional intelligence:
Know yourself as an individual. Respect the
others at home as individuals.
Celebrate each person's uniqueness.
Talk about what each family member likes and dislikes,
what they aim for, what are their
goals, what are they afraid about, what are they
Start talking about feelings at home. Teach
your child feeling words and look for situations
that elicit feelings and talk
Accept and acknowledge your child's feelings.
Teach them that all feelings are acceptable
but not all behaviour. Teach your
child acceptable reactions to the feelings that
experiencing. E.g. we are allowed
to be angry, but not to hurt others, so we can rather
jump to get angry out, or go to
a safe place to let anger subside.
Be honest about your own feelings, and be
a good example of emotional control.
Children look and learn from us.
Teach your children to find joy in the little
Encourage an attitude of caring at home and
towards other. Empathy, respect and
people skills are some of the
gifts you can teach them for their life journey.
We as parents need to realize that our own emotional
awareness and ability to cope with feelings will
determine the success and happiness in family relationships.
I hope that above has given you as parents, some
ideas on how to build your unique child self-image
and confidence. In the next article we will look
at and discuss what not to do when we are trying
to build our child confidence.