Esther panicked when her little son, accompanied by a group
of friends, came in clutching his chin. His shirt was
bloodstained and more blood was seeping through his fingers.
Where could she get hold of her husband? Should she call her
mother? Hardly; she lived too far away. In desperation, she
took the child to her long-suffering neighbor, who was her
lifeline in times of crisis. The neighbor calmly swabbed the
child's chin, which didn't look nearly as alarming now that
it had stopped bleeding, gave him an ice pop for being a
brave boy, and made the mother who was now more at ease, a
cup of tea.
As she left, Esther apologized profusely for bothering her
again and silently wondered why she hadn't swabbed the chin
herself. It was not difficult and the wound was not at all
deep. Why did she go to pieces in every emergency and why was
she so dependent on other people?
She had always been like that. Her mother had bought her
clothes for her and she still did; she also told her, even
now, what to wear for each occasion. She had always checked
her homework for her and advised her about the friends she
made, which ones were suitable and which were not good for
her. In fact, she knew she had the best mother in the whole
world, who even now that she had been married several years,
still helped her in all her endeavors.
Was Esther's mother really the best mother in the world? We
all want to help our children become independent, self-
confident people. Where had this lady gone wrong?
In his first couple of months of his life, baby makes eye
contact and looks at objects which interest him. Do not try
to coax him when he loses interest and focuses on something
else. Very soon, he begins to realize that he can control his
own life and surroundings in various ways. Crying, smiling,
dropping toys, all get different predictable responses. Each
further advance in independence elicits approbation from the
adults around him.
The first real demands made on the child are when Mommy goes
out without him. Some mothers find it extremely difficult to
leave their baby with a baby-sitter at all. The more
difficult they find it, the harder it will be for Baby. These
same mothers cry when they take their child to kindergarten
or school for the first time.
By the time the child is two, he will be contrary. He wants
to show that he is a person in his own right. Whatever his
mother wants him to do, he will try to do the opposite, at
least for a short while until he is distracted. Naturally, it
is not always feasible to give way to the little tyrant, but
if it is at all possible, let him do things his way. Let him
dress himself till he comes for help. Let him feed himself in
the way he chooses, whether it is with fingers, fork or
spoon. Yes, it is a messy business, and much of the food
lands everywhere except where it is meant to go, but it all
helps towards gaining independence.
Letting a child solve his own problems is particularly
difficult first thing in the morning when you know full well
that he will miss his bus. One cannot lay down the law and
say that if the child inists on fastening his own jacket you
have to let him, if this means he will not be going to school
that day. Just as a general guideline, let a child do what he
feels he can do.
Some children seem to be born confident, others need
encouragement. The confident ones will be the first to put up
their hands in the classroom to answer teacher's question.
The answer may be wrong, yet time and again, the child will
volunteer, because he feels he knows it. He may not be
academically bright, but with the right response, he will
grow up with a good healthy self esteem.
On the other hand, those children born with less self
assurance need far more careful handling. A teenager who
peppers her failures with `typical me' or `just like me,' has
a low self esteem which has been `taught.' The following few
are examples, or `lessons,' which further a lack of
confidence: 1) Frequent criticism, even if it is mild, can be
one cause. 2) Lack of consistency on the part of parent
confuses the child and undermines his confidence. 3) Lack of
perimeters in rules of behavior. 4) An overprotective parent
who tries to solve all his problems.
Children must learn to fight their own battles. There are no
hard and fast rules about this last point. Parents also have
to learn how much or how little to interfere. When to go to
school to speak to the teacher; when not to go. Whether to
phone a parent whose child seems to be bullying yours, or
whether to wait a while for the child to sort things out by
In the same way as there are elements which may cause a child
to lack self-confidence, there are those which positively
build his self image. All this is quite obvious, yet
sometimes we are not aware of it without constant repetition.
1) Plenty of love, warmth and encouragement. 2) Verbal
encouragement, expressed frequently. 3) Giving the child free
rein to do things for himself, however, difficult it is, if
he insists. 4) Showing sincere concern and interest in the
child's daily life and happenings. Listening with sympathy to
This last item is particularly difficult for a loving parent.
We all want to fight their battles and smooth out the path of
life for them, yet they have to learn to cope on their own
and solve their own problems.
Once again, as always, we pray for help and guidance in
bringing up our precious children.