Self-Esteem vs Self-Assurance

Parents and teachers are told to build self-esteem in children. But many parents survive to the teenage years and then find themselves saying…but we did so much for you: why are you in the wrong crowd; doing the wrong thing; dropping out. Teachers find increased behaviour issues…less self-motivation, less perseverance,  less maturity. And other people have noticed: focussing on self-esteem has created a narcissistic world: people abound who are disconnected and lacking empathy; and wouldn’t understand the concept of delayed gratification if it bit them…

When our Hare was three he had awesome self-esteem. He would approach anyone, he would converse well and appropriately, he appeared to be a truly confident little boy. He wasn’t. It was all bravado. It was all a social-shell around someone who was fundamentally lost, unhappy and lacking self-assurance. He had regular nightmares and night terrors, he was scared of the dark, he was scared of heights, he was unaffectionate, he was nutty as a fruit cake when he was overwhelmed and, at times, he was down right mean and nasty.

So we completely re-parented him. A process which took five years or so. It wasn’t pretty. We were learning on the job. It was like peeling an onion…we’d sort one thing out and another issue would arise. But here’s two things of the myriad of things which helped: we dramatically increased the hours he got to play each day – less time in the car; just swimming as an activity; no electronic toys or screen-time. And we used eye-contact as part of the process of emotionally reconnecting. Each time I greeted him, I made my eyes soft, sparkly and wider – body language which showed I was warmly excited to see him. We let him break eye-contact when he was ready. And when he spoke I stopped what I was doing, and focussed my eyes and body completely on him. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster but he’s now doing well, and while still a bit nervous with the dark and heights, he displays few if any of his previous anxious  traits.

Self-Assurance is the polar opposite of what many of us think of as self-esteem. It’s quiet and unobtrusive. It’s graceful. It’s peaceful. It’s internally knowing you can manage most things. And most of all…it’s calm.

(Should you find this article useful, Koha is accepted, $1 is fine. The button is under my blog-roll. :))


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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9 Responses to Self-Esteem vs Self-Assurance

  1. faemom says:

    Wow. I never thought of that. That’s amazing. And I think it’s worth a try.
    (Ok, I think I totally sounded like a spammer. It might be time to go to bed.)

    • kloppenmum says:

      Sleep well. Mummas need all the sleep they can get!

      • kloppenmum says:

        And a word of warning. If you’re taking away electronics tv etc, expect around 2 weeks of really foul behaviour and negotiation…they seem to go through withdrawl.
        Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
        Worth it, though.

  2. QueenArtLady says:

    I read this with interest.
    It is so good to read about somebody who is honest in saying that what you have done was not working, but also that one can reverse any ‘bad’ parenting choices.
    We just came back from a weekend church family camp and I have so many doubts after seeing some of the children with seeming great self-esteem. I am talking about under 7’s. My little 4 year old was very shy, happy to stick around mum and watch the action. He observe keenly and will re-enact what he saw (for example the touch ruby game) in his play. But I wanted him to run to the playground with the other kids, talk to the adults etc with confidence. I worked hard at not pushing him.
    The one thing I wanted for my kids was self-esteem, now I realize I want self-assurance.
    I have a question. I read that boys do not do well with eye contact, that often it can trigger the flight or fight response. Can you comment on it?

    • kloppenmum says:

      If you have what I call an Owl, and it sounds as if you do have from what you have described here – he will struggle with eye-contact more than other children. (I think of it as temperament thing rather than a boy/girl thing.) They seem to find eye-contact very intrusive: especially when they are in trouble or an adult is trying to make intense eye-contact with them or is demanding it as part of good manners. The best approach we found, was to catch our son’s eyes and just gently and warmly smile, but allow him to break his eyes away when he needed to. He still struggles at times with other people who don’t understand this, or with us when he is in trouble, but generally he has better eye-contact than those with the same ‘shy’ temperament. And that’s all we ask for at this stage. Thanks for the question and comment. 🙂

      • QueenArtLady says:

        Thanks for the reply. I am slowly working my way through the archives. Do you have an explanation of the temparements as you see them? If Owl mean ‘owl eyes’, absorbing everything very intently and getting overwhelmed earlier than most of his peers – then R is an owl 😉
        I like your pictorial approach, it gives me a picture of what the child ‘looks’ like. It sounds as if my daughter might be a butterfly too.
        Are your ‘animals’ linked to the Steiner temperaments? In Waldorf they say one shouldn’t identify a child in a specific temperament until the 7 year change. Although I know that people who have worked with children extensively who can identify the temperament of young children they work with.
        I would be interested from a point of view of how to handle the temperament, how to provide what they need emotionally etc.

        • kloppenmum says:

          I’ve basically created my own temperament pictures from science, Steiner, history – basically anything I could get my hands on. I understand that Steiner doesn’t tend to connect children with their temperament until seven or older, but our two older boys were definitely born with theirs’! For the Owl, watchful is a good word for them. I will thread bits and pieces through about handling each of the temperaments, but I also intend to get a website up and running which is a bit more specific.

          • QueenArtLady says:

            Wow! You are a busy lady.
            I would be very interested in the information.

            I observed our R today and at home, with only me and his sister he was happy to make prolonged eye contact and was calm. It has put my mind at ease again. So did reading a few of your posts 😉

            • kloppenmum says:

              Great. There is nothing like ‘knowing’ rather than ‘hoping’ our kids are doing OK. Yet, the signs like the eye-contact are so easy to spot…when you know what to look for.

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