American businessman and founder of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, stated it best: “whether you think you can, or think you can’t…you’re right.”
Confidence, courage and tenacity are, and have always been, fundamental components of accomplishment. Ideally, we send our children into adulthood with a sense of limitless possibility and the fortitude to accomplish anything.
Like the homes that we reside in, a child requires a sturdy and unyielding foundation…one that will withstand the worst of storms. Prior to the construction of homes here in South Florida, concrete foundations are created to provide strength and stability to the future structure. During the elementary school years, parents begin to formulate that foundation hoping to fashion a rock-solid platform for their children to grow upon. The “concrete” remains wet and pliable for a period of time and this is a parent’s opportunity to inject morals, values and strengths into the mix. “People don’t change.” We’ve all heard numerous versions of this allegation. Perhaps there is truth to this…as once that “concrete” hardens…these values, ethics, beliefs and ideals are truly “set in stone.”
What a child sees, hears and learns during this period will likely remain with him/her for a lifetime. The components of his/her foundation will certainly influence future decisions, opportunities, and may set the course for adulthood. We will address this concept in future articles.
Self-concept is, according to Dictionary.com, “the idea or mental image one has of oneself and one’s strength, weaknesses, status, etc.” Without question, experiences (both good and traumatic) contribute to one’s self-concept. However, it is those ingredients…those tossed into the hardening foundation…that will contribute most to self-concept. Moreover, the components within that foundation will likely determine “whether you think you can, or think you can’t.”
Hoping to motivate our children, parents often make those “you’ll never” statements. “You’ll never get into college…” “You’ll never get a job…” Such statements settle into the pasty concrete and often remain there forever. Yelling, screaming, body language, etc. also stiffen and fuse within the foundation.
Fortunately, positive, supportive and loving remarks and beliefs have a place there, as well. Rather than “you’ll never” statements…meant to motivate…consider the positive and complimentary approach: “you’re so bright…how can we bring that grade up?” Supportive and complimentary statements tend to increase confidence and certainty. They equip a child with the strength to try new things. Think of the small child attempting to pour milk for the first time. The container is heavy and difficult for small hands to master. Inevitably, the milk spills.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!” The angry and frustrated parent brushes the child aside and begins to sop up the milky puddle. It is unlikely that children, chastised for a failed attempt, would have the courage to try again. Our parental goal is to instill confidence…not to impair or diminish it. Consider this response: “oh, that’s okay…aren’t those containers heavy and difficult to handle? Here’s how I do it.”
The byproducts of low self-esteem are often debilitating and can lead to severe emotional, physical and legal hardships. Low self-esteem occurs generally when a child’s perception of who he is falls significantly short of who he/she believes he/she should be. Signs of potential self-esteem issues are low levels of energy, depression, displeasure with his appearance, avoiding communication, rarely sharing his opinions and frequently conforming to the wishes of others.
Please remember…all children have strengths and talents. Encouraging them to pursue those talents and abilities may go a long way towards improving a child’s self-concept. Fill that foundation with unflappable confidence…with positive and unambiguous messages…and with lots of love.