Koemba Blog

How Failure Builds Self-esteem

“What?  Did I read that correctly?   How can failure build self esteem?   My child gets very upset when she fails at something.  She brought home a D on a science test last week and her self-esteem was out the window! “

Allow me to explain.

First, try to recall your little one learning how to walk.  He was crawling fairly well and now was beginning to pull himself up by a chair leg.  Many times he fell back down before he actually brought himself to a standing position.  But he kept trying.  And then finally that first step, and many more attempts to walk. He might have gotten hurt here and there, bumping his head into a sharp corner, perhaps.  Might have even cried.  But did that stop him?  No way!  He was on his biologically-driven developmental course, and he was determined to walk.  Did you worry about his self-esteem?

In The Optimistic Child, Martin Seligman describes a self-esteem movement that began in the United States about 40 years ago.  Schools developed self-esteem programs.  Every child was to succeed.  They should all feel good about themselves no matter what.  Teachers were reluctant to give low grades. lest children feel discouraged.  But the result was not an improvement in self-esteem.  Instead we have more depression in children and teens and lower self esteem than before this movement began.

Seligman points out that what really makes people feel good about themselves is accomplishments.  This doesn’t mean blue ribbons or straight A’s necessarily, but acquiring any new skill.  The child who learns to whistle after trying over and over again feels good about their new talent!  If that child had concluded “I just can’t whistle, “ and gave up, he or she would not have had the opportunity to succeed.

It is the child’s (and parent’s) interpretation of failure that is important.  A child who is struggling to understand division may have the interpretation “I’m not good at this; I must be dumb.”  This statement suggests that he or she can’t do any better.  But if she believes, “This is hard, so I’ll have to work really hard at it,” she is likely to persevere until she gets it.

In trying to protect children from the uncomfortable feelings of discouragement parents have sometimes contributed to that first interpretation.  Imagine the following scene:  a  7-year-old boy is trying to draw an airplane.  “This looks stupid.  I can’t do it!”  Mother might say, “Oh, that’s the best airplane I’ve ever seen!”  Her statement is inauthentic and her child knows it.  He knows his airplane does not look like any real airplane.  Also, she is telling her child that it is important that it’s “the best.”

The mother could instead validate her child’s feeling of discouragement.  “I can tell you’re feeling crummy about your drawing.  I feel that way, too, when I don’t do as well as I’d like.  If you practice your drawing I’ll bet it will get better.”

Watch for the next opportunity to respond to your child’s feelings of discouragement.  What could be a helpful way to respond to your child’s frustration?

How much is too much?

But Is our hard earned cash being well spent?

What’s going to really build more happiness in our homes?

One year I remember there being only one gift  for me under the tree.  One fairly large box – what could it be? When the moment of paper-ripping arrived I dicovered – a red suitcase!

We had a holiday coming up – but a suitcase!

‘Open it,’ my mother urged.

Lifting the lid I discovered a trove of small surprises.  The unexpected , the interesting can be more fun than the ‘must-have- of the-year.’

We want our children to have what we never had.

But what about thinking about what we want them to have that we did have?

Fun? Time together? Sharing? Caring?

Family or community ritual  and occasions that remind us what the season is really about?

Walks or activities together outdoors?

It’s more important to give our children experiences than things.

So this festive season,  let’s ask,  ‘How do we create the memories we’ll savour?’

When Emotions Get Heated

Imagine being a fly on the wall observing your own parenting.

You might figure:

‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ (Albert Einstein)

You recognise that there are repeating patterns of behaviour in your family, that aren’t helpful.

You want to choose a different way  – to respond rather than react.

You know you’re the only one you can actually change.

So, the next time you have an upset with your … (Click here for full article)

Mary Giles

I would fully recommend this course. This course is a journey of self-awareness, non-judgement, learning new skills, life skills, hope and positive affirmation.

I am calmer, more aware, reflect more, more nonjudgmental. My three children have benefitted greatly. To quote one of my children – ‘Mum, you are different since you did this course. You listen more and you seem to understand more.’

Marie Woodcock

This course has made me view my parenting differently and increased my awareness greatly, it has improved my connection with my kids.

Michelle Byrne

This course has nourished and supported me, first as a mother, and  helped me understand how to deal with emotional upsets – and most importantly how to enjoy being a parent … happy mother, happy children …

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I found it invaluable in my own parenting. My relationship with my children has deepened over the last few months and I can´t thank you enough for all your help and knowledge.

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… an amazingly powerful way of working with parents.

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Training as a Parent Coach has given me the skills and confidence to truly work with parents in partnership.