Let's begin with a review of the ABC's of Self Esteem...a concept I learned from Dr. Kevin Leman in his book "Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours". A is for Acceptance,
B for Belonging and C for Competence. If you want a refresher on my own thoughts on Acceptance or Belonging, go back to my past two blog posts on www.parentsacademysa.org.
Once we have established an attitude of acceptance and we really allow others to be who they are and how they are, we can begin the process of bonding and belonging. If we agree that self esteem is how we VALUE ourselves, not just how we think or feel, acceptance and belonging set the stage for the next step, building competence.
I do not believe "Winning" or "being #1" is what builds true self esteem. Competence is not about winning, or even achieving. It is about getting in the game and trying. True value is not based on performance. All too often, the world says we must win to have value. Often the world tells us "win or go home".... like anything but being the winner says you are dirt. In the words of Ricky Bobby of "Talladega Nights", "if you're not first, you're last!" That attitude says no matter how hard you tried, you are LAME if you are not #1, first, trophy winner.
Competence is about learning, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. Our children watch us closely, to see how we judge and value ourselves. They are catching whatever vibes we are putting out. To help children build their self esteem, we must give frequent and ample opportunities to try and try again. Winning is not the goal, experience is. Competence is not about creating winners and losers. It is about being proud of yourself, not for what you do, but for who you are and for how you are right now.
This point came through so clearly in a discussion at our parenting class. One parent had an "aha moment" when she recalled that she told her daughter it wasn't worth it to take off work for her basketball games because the team always lost. Whoa! It suddenly hit mom upside the head that she was telling her daughter, "you are not worth it because you lose." She might as well have told her daughter, "I don't take off work for losers", because that is the message her child got from her.
Competence is built not from winning or achieving, but from giving it a try. Your child will not make the bed or fold the towels to your standard, but they can sure benefit from a "high five" for bed making, no matter how it looks. When we show our children we believe in them, they begin the life long process of believing in themselves. They don't have to be perfect. When they know they are loved for WHO they are, not what they DO, real competence begins.