Originally posted on Medium

As we started to talk about Respect, we found that it was two-fold: respect for others and respect for self. Equally big and vital to talk about, and because of this we’ve chosen to dedicate an individual post to each of them.

Oftentimes self-respect is harder to teach and learn than respect for others. It relies so heavily on ourselves and our beliefs about ourselves. It is easily crushed when it is not built up strong enough.

How do we teach kids to respect themselves?

Teaching self-respect can be very difficult in today’s social media landscape. Every day children are presented with images that do not reflect their truth. They define their worth by their social media presence, their followers, their likes. When they do not look or live like the people they see in their feeds, they find it hard to like themselves.

Comments on their pictures can run the range of positive to downright hateful. When children are presented with such negative comments consistently, it can be easy to start believing them — “Maybe I am not very pretty” “Maybe no one likes me.”

This can be an incredibly difficult cycle to break once children reach puberty, as peer approval becomes incredibly important to them. They believe they are how others see them.

As a parent, how do my actions affect my child’s self-respect?

Self-respect, like respect for others is in part learned through observing. How do you talk about yourself? Children who hear their parents speak highly of themselves are more likely to model that behavior. They’re more likely to feel good about themselves too, because they are your reflection.

It’s this whole idea of mirroring and mimicking. Ever found yourself talking with another person, only to be holding your arms in the same way? That’s a form of mirroring, and is often unconscious. However children will often do it both consciously and unconsciously as they are attempting to attune to their surroundings and to build a connection with another person. They are attempting to fit in.

Your physical actions, as well as your verbal actions about yourself, will be mirrored by your children. Which means negative actions will be mirrored just as much as positive actions.

How do I build my family’s self-esteem up?

Do you tell your children how awesome they are? Children who encounter only negativity, or no response, feel like they are not good enough, regardless of how good their grades are, how many sports or music awards they win.

As a family focus on your accomplishments, make a habit to compliment one another.

Children seek approval, whether it’s from their parents, teachers, or peers, in whatever they do. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they don’t win, they fall down, they don’t get the grade they wanted. What’s important is that they recognize what was amazing about what they did — they were the only kid under the age of 14 to participate in that race, they didn’t give up, their experiment worked. Then encouraging them to try again next time.

When children give up because they didn’t do well, it damages their self-respect. Eventually it can lead them to not try at all — “I’ll only fail, so why bother trying in the first place?”

Why should we put less emphasis on grades, and what does that have to do with self-respect?

In business we talk about how “grit” is what determines a person’s success, not their intelligence. That drive to keep going despite any obstacles that come up. Yet we put emphasis on children’s grades and not the amount of effort they put in to get those grades. Even if it’s a C, did they put in their best effort? Did they perhaps do better than they did last time? Did they solve a particular math or science problem they were struggling with? Did they passionately believe in their essay argument? Celebrate and acknowledge the effort they put in.

Why is focusing on strengths so important to self-respect?

School is about children exploring what they like, who they are, where they would like to go. One of the keys to helping children learn to respect themselves is finding something they are good at, that they enjoy. Whether it’s maths, science, music, art, computers, dance, gardening, or sports.

When they feel like they’re succeeding at something they enjoy, they’re more likely to continue and to feel good about themselves. They are more likely to share their accomplishments.

How do affirmations build self-respect?

Affirmations can be a powerful tool, as they provide positive beliefs for children. These are things you can say to your children when they’re too young to read, but as they grow, they can write them down themselves, as well as repeat them outloud. If you’re not sure where to start, view this website for over 100 affirmations. Say them outloud everyday with your children and they’ll integrate them into their lives. Children become what they believe.

In our mission to awaken families with love, we recognize the first step to loving others, is to love yourself.

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