From the first days of your baby’s life, you can lay the foundation for self-esteem by responding appropriately to your child’s signals for help (distress, anger, etc.) and fun (interest and enjoyment).
Issues & Advice: January 2009
When a baby finds that her signals are validated and responded to appropriately—that troubles are soothed and pleasure enhanced—she begins to sense that her feelings—the expressions of her very being — are of value and important. A baby learns that she counts for something. This is the foundation of the development of self-esteem — a combination of who you are, how you feel about yourself, and what you think about your future potential.
Self-esteem takes root or withers depending on how you handle your child’s signals of fun — interest and enjoyment — and the signals for help — distress, anger, fear, shame, disgust, and dissmell.
Babies thrive when they feel they are of genuine interest to you and are the center of your universe. They use their nine signals to express their entire range of emotions. When a baby cries, or fusses, or coos, she expects you to react with as much enthusiasm or distress as she does about what is happening to her.
Along with paying attention, reward and praise from you are essential to a child’s self-esteem. You must never forget how much your child wants to be like you and also to be liked by you. Kids need to hear that you approve of them and think they are wonderful