I’ve really had it with ‘building self-esteem’ in your child as a concept. Self-esteem is not a Lego set, we can’t follow a set of complicated instructions, get all the bricks of the right colours in the right places and hey presto! A complete Self Esteem model waiting to go, which we can stand back and look at with pride.
Where did we get this idea that babies arrive in the world with all their bits intact and ready to grow, except self-esteem, which is some magic quality in the possession of parents, who then have to stick it on. That would be a ridiculous way for Nature to operate. And especially in the days before anyone had any idea of what self-esteem was.
Can I be the only one whose children were all born with self-esteem in bucketloads? No baby of mine ever held back from forcefully letting me know it if their needs were not being met, and I have never experienced a toddler who I suspected was holding back from bringing to my attention something they wanted, out of a feeling of not being worth it. I have never got the feeling that any of my children would explore their world more thoroughly if only they felt more of a right to do so, or that they ever held back from making demands because they just didn’t feel good enough about themselves.
The people who need help in building self-esteem are those who have had it knocked out of them already, in other words, big people. The kids are lucky, they are resilient, they wouldn’t recognise ‘a blow to self-esteem’ if it hit them in the face. See how tenaciously they hang on to the idea that they know best, and it’s everyone else who is stupid, in a situation where you would be hiding under your duvet thinking ‘oh no, I got it wrong again, everyone will hate me!’
I think we get it the wrong way round; I have watched my children healthily and unquestioningly asserting themselves in the world and I have learned about self-esteem from them. They just do it so naturally.