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Feed your children with daily doses of Unconditional Positive Regard. by Jill Murray

During childhood one of the most important developments is the growth of a child’s self esteem. Many parents may be so busy attending to their daily chores of work, shopping, making meals etc that they may neglect to remember the importance of nurturing their child’s self esteem on a daily basis.

Parents give feedback to their children in many different ways. Sometimes the feedback is given in the words we speak, but sometimes more feedback is given in the words we don’t utter but should!

Communication also takes place in the non verbal cues that we send.  It’s also important to realise that it’s not what you say, but how your child interprets what you say. Here is an example of a comment that seems harmless but was interpreted as offensive by the child. When my kids were younger they looked very much alike, so much so that when my daughter went to school many of the teachers said that she looked so much like her brothers.  The teachers were only commenting on the family resemblance but my daughter said that those comments made her uncomfortable because her interpretation was that she looked like a boy!

What is unconditional positive regard and why is it important? Children who are given unconditional positive regard are accepted by their parents and families for what they are, just the way they are.  They need not fulfill any specific requirements from their parents, nor are their parent’s needs forced on them.  For example, if your son does not like rough aggressive sports he should not feel that he has to participate to be accepted by his father. Children who are given unconditional regard are accepted as individuals whose needs are specifically unique and they are not measured against others (e.g. siblings and friends).  There are no negative judgments imposed on these fortunate children and they will be able to develop into adults who know what they want and will be confident enough to follow their dreams and fulfill their potential.

This is not to say that you should accept your child’s negative behaviour and allow them to run wild. Parents need to make a strong distinction between a child as an individual and the child’s "behaviour".  The child (as an individual) is always to be positively regarded, but his or her behaviour does not have to be tolerated if it is unacceptable.

It is not always possible to build your child's self esteem in this way but I think you will agree that it is something to strive for, not only with children but with our partners and friends.


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