The partnership has been creating self-esteem programs with high profile role models from sports and entertainment fields as well as the medical profession and business sectors. Encouraging self-esteem is just too big an issue for families to tackle in isolation.
Schools in particular have a large contribution to make. And it is appropriate, said Elias, since training in emotional intelligence is just as important as in academic intelligence. What you need to succeed today is “people smarts, the skills necessary to get along in every day life and to be comfortable with others.”
That work starts as early as six weeks, when kids first begin to enter day care programs. Jody Martin, an early childhood and education specialist with Children’s World Learning Centers based in Golden, Colo., said children are spending as much as 10 or 11 hours a day in day care programs.
And from the get-go it is important to help children feel successful by “planning out curriculum and activities in line with the individuality of the child and where he or she is developmentally,” said Martin. “If skills are introduced when a child is ready, it builds self-esteem.” On the other hand, being pressured to do something prematurely creates a sense of failure.
It is not just what children do, but what they see. With today’s many diverse ethnic groups and with nontraditional family units, it is helpful for children to see those realities pictured in artwork and curriculum. “They can celebrate their likenesses and differences,” said Martin.
Unfortunately, what children also see a lot of these days are commercial messages. It is “cradle to grave” marketing, according to the Center for a New American Dream, (www.newdream.org), a nonprofit organization in Takoma Park, Md. In studying the effects of buying and consumption, the center found that among other trends, many parents say they are working longer hours to pay for things their kids say they need, even as they worry that advertising hurts self-esteem and affects children’s values too much. Other issues:
Almost half of all parents surveyed reported that their children began asking for brand name products by age 5.
More than 80 percent of parents of children age 2 to 17 feel that advertising and marketing aimed at children makes kids too materialistic.
Almost half of all parents admitted that their child would rather go to a shopping mall than go for a family outing in nature.
$2 billion is spent on advertising to kids each year — more than 20 times the amount spent just 10 years ago.
In the face of all this, parents still have an incredibly strong role in helping their children develop a positive sense of self, said Dr. Roni
Leiderman, associate dean of the Infant and Family School Center at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“What’s important is the choices we make,” said Leiderman. We teach our children through actions, like shutting off the TV, reading to a child, or teaching her how to ride a bicycle and through words, like encouraging a child to pick up his clothes, rather than calling him stupid or lazy for leaving them on the floor. “That kind of talk leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
Even if no one spoke to you in enough positive ways when you were growing up, you can learn to do it for your child. There is plenty of information in books, on the Web, in articles and through observing how other parents encourage their children.
It all goes to helping your child have a sense of self and a sense of worth. And Leiderman said, “that translates to feeling capable, responsible and lovable.”