image Self-Esteem: The Most Precious Gift of All

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A few weeks ago, we had our daughter’s 12-month assessment. It was the second one she’d had, the first having taken place a month or so earlier, but concluding unsatisfactorily when our little girl was deemed to have not met all the criteria. Fortunately, there was no such problem this time around. ‘She’s doing great,’ the health visitor announced kindly, going on to make reference to the areas where our girl hadn’t met the target last time.

 

As the lady spoke, as lovely as she was, I bristled with annoyance. Who was she to assess my daughter in this way, because she’d come to walking ‘later’, because she’d only recently learnt how to grip a pencil? Who was anyone to determine that these would be the measures of success for my beautiful child? What about the fact that she was now able to show love and would throw her arms around me spontaneously? What about the fact that she could laugh uproariously at her dad pretending to be The Gruffalo, her strong, powerful giggle reverberating around the room in joy? What about the fact that she was kind and would always try to share her meals with others? What about the fact that she could put a smile on anyone’s face within seconds of meeting her, and had brought more happiness into our lives than we could ever have envisaged? How did none of this count towards the whole, how come these weren’t considered when carrying out a review of my daughter’s first twelve months on earth? I appreciate that this was a developmental assessment to identify concerns but still, as a parent, it jarred.

 

Then later, I had another thought. And it was far more worrying:

 

This was only the start.

 

This was just the beginning of a lifetime of being assessed, of being reviewed against changing standards to determine whether my girl was ‘good enough’. It would be there in school, with tests and exams. She would have it in the workplace, when sitting nervously in interviews or stepping forward for promotion. She would experience it when applying for a loan, or mortgage. And she would even experience it in relationships, when prospective partners would assess her against their own set of personal expectations. This benchmarking, this being held up to scrutiny would be inevitable. It wouldn’t all be bad either; indeed, it could positively encourage and empower her. But without doubt, this process of assessment, at one year old, was just the start.

 

I can’t change that. But I can change how ‘being assessed’ impacts upon her as an individual.

 

And I can do that by helping to build her self-esteem. Since becoming a mother, I have come to the realisation that the best gift I can give my child is a belief in herself. This will make her resilient and able to deal with the tough times, but also humble and measured when celebrating success.

 

How to do this, however, is another question. Fair to say I’m no expert: some days it feels like I’m winging this parenting thing. But, I do have some thoughts about how I might be able to help her self-esteem to grow.

 

I can ask her questions and truly listen to her answers; that doesn’t mean I will always give her exactly what she wants but I can let her have her voice so that she feels valued. I can also ask her questions for her to answer herself; from my experience of coaching, I know that finding out you had the solution inside all along is incredibly empowering. I can also empower her by helping her to learn and increase her own capability; I can give her some responsibility, however small, so she feels equal. I can praise her, but not excessively, and I can distinguish feedback about what she has ‘done’ from her as a person. I can be careful about the labels I use and endeavour to not pigeonhole her as ‘sporty’, for example, as she may subsequently believe she will only get her worth from playing these roles. I can also try and watch the language I use around her so she doesn’t grow up with a negative self-image; this extends to how I talk about myself in front of her. But above all else, I can just love her, so she knows that she’s loved and loveable no matter what she does in life.

 

These ideas sound great in theory but implementing them will be a challenge. But I will try. Because I want my daughter to grow up knowing her value, her worth as a person, regardless of what feedback or purported ‘failures’ she endures in her life.  I want her to be proud of who she ‘is’ above what she ‘does.’ I want her, ultimately, to be happy.

The Pramshed
Hot Pink Wellingtons

35 comments

  1. I find the checks they do throughout their childhood very odd! They check things that I don’t think need to be checked and then miss things, that I believe are critical. Every child reaches milestones at different times, but they all do it eventually (most of the time), this is a great attitude to have and so much more positive. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  2. I think about this a lot as I don’t have the best self esteem myself and it’s impossible not to see your child as a blank slate. I agree, it’s no doubt much more difficult to put things into practice, but I hope that if I’m conscious of them, then at least I’ll get some of it right. I remember feeling the same after all the development checks we’ve had – my son has been late to hit lots of milestones. He gets to them all in the end, just a bit behind the average, and it feels awful to have a stranger judging your child on a tick box sheet. I know him better and I know he’ll get there in the end. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  3. This is actually a really important post. I’ve just finished reading Beautiful Failures and I’m working on a project about the pandemic of anxiety in our kids. This constantly being assessed, being measured and feeling like they’re never enough is part of the problem. #Fortheloveofblog

    • Thank you. That sounds like an interesting read, and the project you are working on sounds so important. Mental health issues amongst children is on the rise – which is terrifying x

  4. Such an interesting post – I’d never thought of these things before. Of course though, lovr is the most important – not something a health visitor says to tick a box x
    #fortheloveofBLOG

  5. Really fab post. It is random to think that there is a one size fits all rule for development! All of our kids are different and have their own amazing skills. It’s hard not to compare but hopefully we will be cool with our kids doing stuff when they’re ready. #fortheloveofblog

  6. What a fantastic post, I hate all these assessments, I understand the need for them to an extent but a lot of the time it’s just box ticking nonsense. Self-esteem is definitely something I really hope I can give to both my children x
    #SharingtheBlogLove

  7. I’m so glad you’ve written about this, Michelle. I agree with some of the other commenters. There shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. These are just arbitrary markers. They judge and question whether milestones have been reached, but that isn’t isn’t a fair measure when each of us is unique, original. fearfully and wonderfully made. Think of a field of tulip bulbs, in time the tender green shoots begin to emerge from the soil, each at their own pace – some breaking the surface quickly, some taking their time. But in the end, we have an glorious field of colourful flowers, each beautiful….No matter how long it took them to grow. #Fortheloveofblog

  8. I really enjoyed this post – so true. We have had some confidence issues with my 6 year old this week and I honestly don’t know where to start. I look at her beautiful face and worry about the obstacles that will face her, life can be so hard. #sharingthebloglove

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your dear daughter struggling with confidence, I can imagine what a worry it must be. She’s still young and has time to grow in confidence. Wishing you all good things x

  9. Wow, I LOVE THIS. It truly spoke to me. My children are 4, and I can tell you that I have obsessed at points over evaluations that were coming up, over what OTHER children are doing that my children aren’t…..the whole deal. First of all, SO many little ones that I have encountered are not walking by 12 months! My pediatrician (who we chose because she was top of her class at med school, etc. etc.) told us not to be at all concerned about the walking thing until 18 months. My son walked at 13 months, but my daughter not until 16 months. Now, looking back, there were early signs of perfectionist behavior with my little girl in particular. In my view, she only wanted to “debut” her walk until it was damned near perfect! 🙂

    You beautifully captured a mother’s constant worry over her “little cubs.” Awesome, awesome job.
    #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Thank you for such a lovely comment. Like you, for a while, I obsessed over the milestones, stressing over what my baby ‘should’ be doing. So then I decided to just stop reading books and just trust my daughter knew exactly what she was doing. Your paediatrician sounds brilliant! Thank you again for such a lovely, thoughtful comment which I appreciate x

  10. I can completely resonate with this post. We’re already being assessed by the nursery staff for our daughter not walking at 16 months. Which is now starting to worry me. I need to try and instill self belief into her by saying “you can do it” but will this be enough? Thanks for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    • I think that is more than enough what you are doing. Don’t worry, they all get there – it’s true. We know our children better than anyone with their tick boxes. Thanks for reading x

  11. I’m against the constant tests, assessments and comparisons that are done with our children, but I’ve never thought about it in terms of teaching self-esteem. Great post. Thank you #SharingtheBlogLove

  12. I bloody love this! I hate that there is ‘criteria’ for children to reach, and throughout their life as you say! Everyone is different, everyone develops differently. Some people can work with numbers, other words, others are artistic. I love how you plan on showing your daughter her own self worth. I hope you succeed against the society pressures!
    #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Thanks so much! The thought of my daughter thinking that she’s not good enough makes me feel so sad so I will try to mitigate that if I can, in spite of the challenges out there. Thanks for your lovely comment, and for reading x

  13. I love this post! I love your strategies for combating the constant assessment. I also try really hard not to give labels to my children. And I think it’s great that you’ve highlighted all her amazing qualities that can’t be measured by a tick on a form. Let’s celebrate these things and show are children that these are the things that really count for something.

    We’ve got my youngest’s 2yr review with the health visitor next week…

    • You’re absolutely right. We should celebrate the real qualities and reinforce these to our children so they know they are incredible, amazing, special, no matter what. It’s this that matters most of all. Thanks for reading x

  14. I love this, I think the criteria that is expected at the 12 month review is ridiculous and he fact your child can fail seems wrong! I think it’s important to teach your children that actually in the long run they shouldn’t be comparing themselves to a standard, it may take them longer to learn or do something but in other things they can be miles ahead. Everyone’s different! #SharingtheBlogLove

  15. I can relate to this post in so many ways. As the mum of a daughter with Autism who often doesn’t fit the conventional mould, and the teacher of students with SEND who often excel in areas that aren’t measured, I both feel and share you indignation for a system which often fails to recognise individuality. #SharingTheBlogLove

    • Thank you for your comment. It seems such a tragedy that the abilities and qualities of some children just aren’t celebrated. Our children are people – amazing, incredible, singular, every wonderful, fantastic one of them. Thanks for reading x

  16. Oh I so hear you on this one. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in assessments and whats expected of them. How can what a generic test say apply to an individual? I really try to remove this pressure from my children and from me! I found this TED talk fab. It covers why we should create memories not expectations. https://youtu.be/A71OktxTPac
    Thanks for sharing this post
    #SharingTheBlogLove

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, and for your recommendation. I absolutely love that concept – creating memories, not expectations. Will take a look. Thanks for reading x

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