The Importance of Teaching Children Self Love

The Importance of Teaching Children Self Love

Self Love

noun

the regard for one’s own well-being and happiness

 

As parents we spend a large amount of time teaching our children the fundamental building blocks of healthy relationships. From kindness and compassion, to forgiveness and resilience. I’ve joked before that the ultimate aim of parenting is “a happy, balanced, confident child who knows their arse from their elbow and won’t grow up to cause world war three”. Jokes aside, a happy, balanced, confident child is the main aim of the game here. But even with all our blessings in life – our education, inherent privilege and good fortune – our children aren’t born with happiness. They aren’t born instinctively confident, emotionally well balanced and ready to tackle the world. They spend their childhoods acquiring knowledge and skills that equip them for adulthood. And the most important lesson of all? Self love.

Self love, or self esteem, is a measure of their own self worth effectively. And it’s a really interesting topic because it plays into every aspect of their lives.

I have two very, very different children. One is a naturally quite gregarious character, very affable and non-confrontational. The other takes everything very personally, whereby even a side eye glance from a stranger can cause tears. One child is capable of shrugging off criticism whereas the other, to be blunt, is not. I have one child who forms friendships easily, and one who struggles slightly more. I have one child who is so self-conscious, and at times so desperately lacking in self esteem, that he is always on the verge of a meltdown. And I don’t really know why they are so wildly different. They’re siblings. They’ve had broadly identical upbringings. One was bottle fed and one was breastfed, but I don’t see that as being the determining factor here. Neither were left to cry it out as babies, and both went to childcare from the age of six months. 

And so although self love is a skill that must be taught, it is clear that some children need it instilling in them more than others. What is perhaps most interesting though, or at least it is to me, is that the confident self-assured child is my daughter. The child who struggles and is much more sensitive to the world around them is my son. Now, is this me assuming that because he’s male he’s instinctively more robust than my daughter? Yes, perhaps. Is my daughters resilience because I’ve spent the duration of her life telling her ten million times a day how she’s capable of anything, because she’s female and I feel the struggles she will face later in life? Maybe. 

But the fact remains, one of my children needs to have their self worth instilled in them immediately. And just like so many other life skills we want our children to learn, this is one they need for their future. It’s widely accepted that the ability to self love is also associated with less risk of anxiety and depression, and a better ability to deal with stress. All things we want for our kids, not just as adults, but skills they’ll need to get through school unscathed. 

For five and a half years I’ve been telling my son how great he is. I laughed at every joke, delighted in every story, cheered on every minor triumph. But to absolutely no gain. And then I read this article on Hey Sigmund, and suddenly it was obvious. Finn needs to learn through example. He doesn’t just need to hear his Dad and I voicing our self worth though, he needs to believe in what we’re saying to him, about him. 

Teaching children to self love is about instilling a resilience to criticism, either from others or from themselves. Feigning success to a young child, letting them always win, doesn’t build resilience. I’m not saying that from this point onwards Finn and Clara don’t have a hope in hell of ever beating me at anything ever again. But I will let them lose once in a while. And I’ll teach them to be happy for others when they succeed rather than dwell on their own loss. This is all super obvious parenting, no doubt. But it’s the grey area of knowing when to start bursting their little bubble of the world revolving around them. For most kids I guess this happens around age four or five. Right when they go to school. But we’re home schoolers, so this is something else I need to teach the kids.

I actually need to actively teach the children self love. I need to tell them all the things they need to hear. And I need to pick them up from every hit to their confidence, which I also need to sit back and allow to happen which goes against every protective parent instinct I have. This is one set of lessons that will continue throughout their lives, and will continue to mess with my head. When do I step in and protect them? When do I hold back and let them realise that all those times I told them they CAN do anything they want in life, they can, but perhaps not right now. Clara has that down. Her response to the question “what do you want to be when you’re older?” says it all…

“ME. I’m going to be me, because I can be anything I want to be, can’t I?”

 

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13 Comments

  1. September 14, 2017 / 3:16 pm

    So very true, often we leave ourselves until last, if at all, so to teach it at a young age can only be the greatest gift to give a child.

    • The Expat Mama
      September 15, 2017 / 1:42 am

      Exactly! It’s so often we hear about children needing to be surrounded by love to flourish, but the love always comes from other people, why can’t they surround themselves with their own love too?

  2. margsstu
    September 14, 2017 / 3:32 pm

    Really interesting. I think as a child I was taught to be confident and not care what others thought of me. But I was never explicitly taught to love and appreciate myself. I don’t really think that came along for me until college, or even more recently. But this brings up a really good point. I think if children are taught about self-love, the puberty years may be easier.

    • The Expat Mama
      September 15, 2017 / 1:41 am

      I’m completely the same! I suffered from really low self esteem for ages, and it’s only now – aged nearly 30 – that I think I’ve found my happy place. It’s no one’s fault, but self love wasn’t really a consideration when I was a kid. Fingers crossed for a positive impact in years to come…

  3. September 14, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    I don’t have any children yet, but this is so true! It’s so important for a child to love themselves and be confident in their own skin!

    • The Expat Mama
      September 15, 2017 / 1:32 am

      Definitely! And I think as adults we have a responsibility to remind kids of their brilliance- doesn’t have to be your own kids, but any kids you know from friends or family, share the love!

  4. September 15, 2017 / 3:38 am

    This is so important.I don’t have kids yet but I will certainly be teaching them self love.

  5. Life with Larissa
    September 16, 2017 / 2:37 am

    This is one of the most important things to teach kids. Nowadays we see so much where people are trying to find validation from others, but that has to come from within first. And in order to do that, kids have to know how, and why it’s important. I know when I have children, I will be teaching them this as well <3

  6. KElsi Aw
    September 16, 2017 / 5:30 pm

    I love this. Teaching children resiliency is something that so many are missing… but I say that never having done it myself. My parents somehow were able to instill this trait in me, and I hope I can pass on the learning to my future children.

  7. September 18, 2017 / 2:24 am

    I have three children, We never talked about self love or self esteem but I always make them feel loved and worthy. I encourage them to be confident and believed that they can.

  8. September 18, 2017 / 3:31 am

    That is probably the cutest and most inspiring thing ever said by a child. You should be a proud Mama 🙂

  9. September 18, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    My youngest two are completely different characters too. I always try to encourage them to do their best.

  10. September 19, 2017 / 12:07 am

    Your post is so true. Encouraging our children to love themselves is a great way to instill them confidences. Thanks for sharing.