I have many things I want to say but—
No one will listen.
I have many things I want to do but—
No one will let me.
And the things I write are corrected but—
No one reads them.
Who am I?
Jody, 8 years old
(Clark Moustakas 1975)
Developing a self-concept begins early in life. It begins with infancy when parents make eye contact and smile as they talk, sing, and cuddle with their baby. This is how a child feels secure and is the first message of being worthwhile.
As children grow, parents and teachers can be positive role models by enhancing children’s self-image. They can model how to cope with frustration and empathize with struggles. They can model how to express anger, sadness, grief, and disappointment in healthy ways. How often do we hear people berate or yell at their children and then expect them to behave well, without anger, resentment, or sadness? Negative adult reactions cultivate anxious, depressed children with negative self-concepts. The children tend to withdraw or retaliate.
Certainly, parents and teachers start off with high aspirations to raise well-adjusted children with positive self-concepts. Why then might adults respond adversely when their children act out? This is likely due in part to the ways they were raised, by their role models who may have tried their best at the time. Temperaments are also involved. Child psychology has evolved and suggests that some outdated discipline techniques need to be replaced by healthier methods. No more spanking, anger, and grounding for the rest of their lives! When a child’s self-concept seems to be suffering, intervention from a child psychologist or another mental health specialist is indicated.
Well-meaning parents often contact me for coaching ideas. Adults would benefit by reverting to their early days of making eye contact, smiling, talking, singing, and nurturance. By careful listening and valuing, children can be guided to make responsible choices. It is through kindness, respect, and setting effective limits that healthy self-concepts develop.