Part 1 of Developing Self-Esteem

Posted on October 18, 2016 by Leslie Ann Daniels

During the weekend of the Oak Meadow Open House (Oct 1, 2016), there was also a Staff Retreat for all Oak Meadow employees. As one of the longest serving employees, I had the fortunate opportunity to lead a workshop on “Oak Meadow Roots”, in which I shared some history and “acorn wisdom” of my thirty-plus years with Oak Meadow. This workshop inspired me to look back in my personal archives when I returned home, and I found an amazing article in Oak Meadow’s Fall 1989 journal of “Living Education”, called Developing Self-Esteem, written by Oak Meadow’s co-founder, Lawrence Williams. It is well worth sharing in a three-part series. The following is Part 1 of Developing Self-Esteem: Respect Them

Lawrence Williams (Oak Meadow Archives)

“One of the primary benefits of homeschooling is the opportunity that it provides for the development of self-esteem in children. Homeschooling has the potential to offer a safe, supportive environment, one that quite naturally fosters the development of a healthy self-esteem in children. However, notice that I said potential. Like most things in life, homeschooling offers no guarantees. The opportunity is there, but whether that opportunity becomes a reality is the responsibility of the homeschooling parents. If you provide certain key elements, then your children’s self-esteem will increase during their homeschooling experience. What are these elements? There are many factors that play a part in the development of a child’s sense of self-esteem, but there are three that are of primary importance: respect, appreciation and challenges.
Respect Them
The most important thing that you can do to help children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem is to treat them with respect. Too often, we think of children as second-class people, simply because their bodies are smaller than most adults. However, what makes all of us worthwhile as human beings is not our body, but what we are inside. In this respect, children have every reason to be respected as much as adults, for they are just as big inside (sometimes even bigger) than most adults. Children can muster more will, more love and more ingenuity than a whole group of adults, and they can maintain it all day and well into the night, when most of us are exhausted and ready for bed. So, in terms of their inner nature, children are certainly worthy of our respect. We may agree with this in principle, but in our daily lives we often have difficulty doing it. How do we show respect for children in their daily lives?
Respect Their Sensitivity – Children are remarkably sensitive beings, but many parents see this as a sign of weakness, and try to expose their children to “the real world” at an early age. Often, the parents who do this feel that they have the child’s best interests in mind, but when this happens, children develop a number of defenses to protect their sensitivity, and these defenses often continue into adulthood, affecting the quality of their lives and the lives of those around them. Children who are forced to develop such defenses often appear to be self-confident, but that is only a superficial show of strength to protect themselves. By respecting the sensitivity of children, we give them an opportunity to express their own deeper nature, and ultimately that is the source from which true self-esteem arises.
Honor Your Agreements With Them – Don’t say you’ll do something and then later decide you won’t. When you arbitrarily disregard an agreement that you have made with them, you give them two very clear messages: that their concerns are not important, and that your word has no value. These messages damage the child’s sense of self-esteem and also weaken the bond that you share. Of course, there are always unforeseen events that occur which prevent us from doing some things we had planned to do, and when these occur you just have to explain the situation, apologize for not being able to keep your agreement, and make a new agreement. If the situation is valid, children will usually understand. But even if they don’t, as long as the reason is valid, you will have given them a good example of how to maintain your integrity while adapting to unforeseen circumstances, and this is a lesson that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Listen To Them – When children are still infants, many parents get into the habit of telling them what to do, simply because children are still learning about the basics of the world, and need some guidance. However, as children grow older (4-5 years old) they have begun to develop their own understanding of the world and their relationship to it, and they have many things to say that are not only valid, but can also be quite remarkable. But by this time many parents have gotten so used to talking at their children that they can’t stop to listen to them. By listening to children from an early age, we let them know that what they have to say is important, and this builds self-esteem.”
Stay tuned for next week’s Part 2 – Appreciate Them!