Self Respect Deserves More Respect



Healthy self-respect is an admirable trait in any adult. So is understanding that when we inevitably fail, we can get back up, dust ourselves off and move forward without compromising what we believe in or losing our core sense of self. A strong employee and friend is one that respects herself enough to stick to it when things are hard and not compromise when it would be easier to give in. So how people end up with these admirable strengths? A parent, teacher or mentor taught them through conversation and modeling of these behaviors. 

School counselor Jennifer Burnett recommends the art of modeling desired behaviors. “To build self-esteem and self-respect, it’s good to model positive self-talk in front of your kids. Instead of complaining about your weight for instance, talk about healthy choices that you are making, such as ‘I’m so glad I got my workout in today. It makes me feel so strong and healthy when I do.’” she says. This demonstrates the ability to focus on the healthy things in your life.

“You can also have them brainstorm the things they are good at doing or want to improve at, then talk with them about how they could enhance those skills they are good at and improve the areas where they need improvement,” Burnett says.

Sharon, a Kansas City mother of two and educator herself, follows this rule with her middle school age son. “When we notice that he is starting to talk bad about himself or appears down in his body language, we ask him specific questions to guide his thinking, such as ‘What made you feel this way?’, ‘What do you think you can do to grow from this?’, ‘What did you do well in the situation?’ Our hope is that he will begin to learn to engage in this thinking more naturally,” she says.

While it’s never too early to begin working on your child’s self-respect, the need to do so may become very apparent with the advent of the “tween” years. “The impact of peer pressure and kids’ really trying to find their place in the world really starts to take shape in the late elementary/middle school years,” Burnett says. “They want to fit in and not stand out from the crowd.”
While Sharon’s son has always been naturally hard on himself, she says his self-criticism has become more distinct as he has grown into the late elementary years. “He is an overachiever; it’s his personality. But his being hard on himself has become even more pronounced now that he is getting to an age where he is starting to be concerned with not just what he thinks, but what others think, too—friends, girls, etc.”

When cultivating self-respect, a good place to start is in the areas where your child excels, and the growth comes with pushing him out of his comfort zone, “There are things that he does well and enjoys, and we encourage those activities. They help him to appreciate his strengths,” notes Sharon. “We also encourage him to step out of his comfort zone. When we do this and he ends up being good at the activity, we see his self-esteem grow.”

Burnett agrees that encouraging children to try new things is important for building self-respect. “Help them pursue new activities, and if they struggle with the idea that they might fail, let them know that it’s okay if they make mistakes or fail. But they won’t know until they give it a try.”

If you are struggling with ways to help your child feel good about himself or to try new things, there are people who can help. School counselors and school social workers are equipped with strategies and recommendations for you to use with your child. Burnett also recommends www.LoveAndLogic.com as a parenting resource to explore.

Watch for...

  • Negative self-talk
  • Withdrawing from previously desired activities
  • Statements revolving around hating their skills or image
  • Hesitating to try new things

Karah Chapman is a school psychologist in the Kansas City area who enjoys the bright light that shines when kids accomplish something they never thought they could!

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