Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could nurture our children’s self-esteem for the rest of their life? That’s the goal Dr. Ingrid Schweiger proposes in her book, Self-Esteem for a Lifetime. Subtitled “Raising a Successful Child from the Inside Out,” this book offers practical techniques and a hopeful message for parents, educators and people who love children: Nurturing self-esteem is a dynamic process and it’s never too late to begin.
Dr. Schweiger, a psychotherapist, speaks from both a professional and personal perspective. She’s spent 30 years counseling families and raised two daughters, now 35 and 31. She readily admits that of all her roles in life, being a parent was the most demanding. Now that she’s a grandmother she has the opportunity to nurture self-esteem in her grandsons.
She believes that self-esteem is the core ingredient for success in every arena of life and the common denominator of those suffering emotional, behavioral and relationship problems is low self-esteem. Self-esteem is the “key” element in a child who is happy with herself. In her book, Dr. Schweiger synthesizes complex concepts with user-friendly language to help parents recognize that they are the experts in their children’s lives.
This 115-page book has seven chapters with written exercises to answer. Each chapter ends with a “Quick Reminder” summary and a journal page with the same powerful question: What have I learned about my children, my family, and myself?
In her introduction, Dr. Schweiger explains that she wanted to offer parents support with raising young children and discovered these principles apply to relationships with children of any age. She also believes that building self-esteem in others will improve all relationships and have a profound impact on how you feel about yourself. She has tremendous empathy for busy parents and reiterates an important message: parenting is the most difficult job in the world and there are no perfect parents.
She defines self-esteem as self-worth and how much we value ourselves. She believes it’s ongoing and not a fixed characteristic. Self-esteem is vital in order to energize our children and maximize their strengths. By helping children discover their niche where they can shine, you help them feel pride and build their self-esteem. She also has compassion for stay-at-home moms who complain of low self-esteem because their past approval was often based on school grades and accomplishments at work. She says we must learn to see the difference between a person’s goodness and her resume.
We are constantly sending high and low self-esteem messages, which have a huge impact on children. She advises that we practice listening for the high and low self-esteem messages we send during the day, for example, “you’re good at that,” “I enjoy being with you,” “you make me so proud of you”— versus, “I’m not happy with you,” “you’re so lazy,” “why don’t you do something constructive?”
In one of the exercises readers can list the behaviors/qualities/strengths they like about each member of their family and themselves, and then journal about what they learned. When you identify a positive quality about a person, your energy shifts. She suggests keeping a list of a child’s strengths on the refrigerator as a reminder when times get rough.
She also explains that each member of the family is part of a “family system” made up of family members, teachers, friends, co-workers, community, cultural groups and societal pressures. All of these contribute to a child’s self-esteem, so when problems arise, you need to look at the whole family system.
There’s nothing more powerful than listening to a child and giving your time. But when you do, avoid interrupting, thinking ahead and denying the child’s feelings. She also advises that you avoid judging, problem solving and denying concerns. It’s better to be an encourager and say, I see, right, go on. Ask open questions that begin with how, what, could and avoid questions that ask why.
This slender book contains a wealth of information that will help you implement specific tools for raising happy children and nurturing strong family relationships. Most importantly, Dr. Schweiger says, “trust you own instincts – you know your child best.”