“No be say I no go pay o.
Dem go dey pursue person.
Instead of them to flog person, dem go dey pursue person.
Dem go flog me, the cane e go taya…dey go taya for flogging.
As dem say dem stubborn, I tell dem say I stubborn pass dem.…”
Oblivious to the fact that she is actually standing on a spotlight with millions of people across the world as spectators, seven-year-old Success Adegor had just 29 seconds to vent her anger to the world with her eloquently delivered rant in flawless pidgin against an education system that has been frustrating millions of Nigerian children since I can remember.
This week’s focus is not on the primary now-former three pupil of Okotie Eboh Primary School 1 in Sapele, Delta State and now famous child celebrity, neither is it on the failure of education in Nigeria, rags to riches, good trumping evil or the fact that Success is now a global ‘phenomenon’ from the streets to Warri. Like last week, the focus is still on children.
This time around, I am looking at self-esteem among children and Success Adegor readily comes to mind. First, Adegor is an inspiration because of her love for education. At her age, the last bell signalling the end of school is the most lyrical music you can play for me. And on the very few occasions my father failed to make a payment and I was sent home? Heaven! Outside her love for education, Success packs a healthy dose of high self-esteem!
Growing up years back, you dare not speak to someone who is a few years older than you are like Success addressed the female Corps member ‘interviewing’ her. Are you mad or do you want to end up with resounding slaps and a few knocks for efforts? You dare not. “He has no home training,” they will say. “The parents are not handling their children with strong hand,” or they reach an inevitable conclusion, “the pikin don spoil.” Though not much has changed, things are at least, better. Globalisation, digitalization and exposure to other cultures has tampered ‘home training to accommodate changing norms. There is a need for parents to be careful in the upbringing of their children to avoid killing their self-esteem in the name of upbringing.
High Self-Esteem In Children: Why it Matters
Self-esteem in children from an early age is very important for the development of their person. In fact, a positive sense of self-worth is the greatest gift one can give his child. Self-esteem is, in its simplest definition is the way an individual feels about himself. When children feel confident about themselves and their abilities, they have good self-esteem. Children who feel like they’re not liked by family or their friends or who tend to believe their efforts will lead to failure have poor self-esteem. Self-esteem is one measure of a children’s overall mental health.
Again, children who have a healthy dose of self-esteem have the confidence to try new things. They are more likely to try their best. They feel proud of what they can do. Self-esteem helps them cope with mistakes and to try again, even if they fail at first. As a result, self-esteem helps them do better at school, at home, and with friends.
Self-esteem matters because it directly impacts the way children act every day, according to a survey by U.S based agency, National Network for Child Care, a child’s self-esteem affects his friendships with other children, his success in school, his ability to deal with problems and his overall confidence. According to it too, children with healthy self-esteem are better equipped to deal with peer pressure and responsibility than kids who feel bad about themselves. Children with good self-esteem are also better able to deal with strong emotions, both good and bad, and to cope with challenges and frustrations when they arise.
In addition, it helps in reducing sexual abuse of children. If you go through the newspapers on a daily basis like I do, the page three to five of our national dailies will scare you with the kind of stories they contain as a parent. Stories of paedophiles on the rise and sexual abuse of children by people that are hitherto trusted to care for them have now become a normal headline today as cases are being reported on a regular frequency.
The reality is that children who are lonely, insecure, or lacking in support are more likely to be targets of sexual abuse. Perpetrators, specifically groomers, look for vulnerable children who will be easy to befriend.
Since hunters have learnt to shoot without missing, birds must learn to fly without perching. One good way to help prevent this is to ensure that your child has the self-esteem that makes them less likely to be targeted, or, if they are, to have the confidence to tell you.
On the contrary, children with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. If they think others won’t accept them, they may not join in. They may let others treat them poorly. They may have a hard time standing up for themselves. They may give up easily, or not try at all. They find it hard to cope when they make a mistake, lose, or fail. As a result, they may not do as well as they could.
I came across some wonderful ideas on how to nurture your child’s self-esteem. They are captured in the following paragraphs:
Strengthen your child’s sense of his family, culture and community. For example, show your child family photos and share family stories, take part in community or cultural events like religious festivals, and encourage your child join a local sporting club or interest group, or join as a family.
Encourage your child to value being part of your family. One way to do this is by involving your child in chores. When everyone contributes to the smooth running of the household, you all feel important and valued.
Make your child’s friends welcome and get to know them. Encourage your child to have friends over to your house, and make time for your child to go to their houses.
Spend quality time with your child. When you spend quality time with your child you let your child know she’s important to you. Doing things together as a family can help strengthen a sense of belonging and togetherness in your family, which is also good for your child’s self-esteem.
Success and achievements can help your child feel good about himself. But your child can also build self-esteem doing things he doesn’t always enjoy or succeed at. You can still praise his effort and determination – and remind him that these will help him succeed in other areas, or next time.
There are lots of ways to help your child succeed, achieve and cope well with failure: When your child has a problem, encourage her to think calmly, listen to other people’s points of view and come up with possible solutions to try. This builds important life skills.
Help your child learn new things and achieve goals. When your child is younger, this might mean praising and encouraging him when he learns something new, like riding a bike. When he’s older, it might be taking him to sport and helping him practise.
Celebrate big and small achievements and successes. And remember to praise your child’s effort, not just her results. For example, ‘You tried that puzzle piece in lots of different spots and you finally got it right. Well done!’.
Keep special reminders of your child’s successes and progress. You can go through them with your child and talk about your special memories, and the things he has achieved.
Teach your child that failing is a part of learning. For example, if she keeps missing the ball when she’s learning to catch, say ‘You’re getting closer each time. I can see how hard you’re trying to catch it’.
Teach your child to treat himself kindly when he does fail. You could be a role model here. For example, ‘I tried a new recipe, and the cake looks a bit funny. But that’s OK. It smells delicious’.
Having looked at that, I also came across things that can be damaging to your child’s self-esteem. They are also presented in paragraphs:
Messages that say something negative about children are bad for their self-esteem – for example, ‘You are slow, stupid, ode, wawa …’. When children do something you don’t like, it’s better to tell them what they could do instead.
Messages that imply that life would be better without children might harm their self-esteem. For example, ‘If it weren’t for you, I know where I would have been’.
Ignoring children, treating them like a nuisance and not taking an interest in them are likely to be bad for children’s self-esteem. An example might be, ‘I am sick and tired of you’. Frowning or sighing all the time when children want to talk to you might have the same effect.
Negative comparisons with other children, especially brothers and sisters, are also unlikely to be helpful. Each child in your family is different, with individual strengths and weaknesses. It’s better if you can recognise each child’s successes and achievements.
All parents feel frustrated and tired sometimes. But if parents send the message that they feel like this about their children all the time, children get the message that they’re a nuisance.
Well, I hope this has not been a waste of your time? Let’s do this again next week.
Meanwhile, I will appreciate your feedbacks in terms of questions, comments, etc.