If we’re not giving kids Christ-centered self-esteem, we’re leaving them open to losing any self-esteem they have. Find out why.
“Oh, what a wonderful picture, Alyssa!” the teacher exclaims as he holds the scribbled drawing aloft. Alyssa beams. But he doesn’t even notice her next drawing. And Alyssa feels like a failure.
Alyssa, like almost every child, has given others the power to shape her self-perception. Her need for praise is training Alyssa to see herself through others’ eyes. The problem with this is that others’ images of her won’t always be consistent. And as a result, Alyssa won’t develop a Christ-centered self-esteem. What can we do to develop a faith-based self-esteem in our children?
Simply put, self-esteem is the way children feel about themselves.
A child with high self-esteem will…
- Work happily alone;
- Be responsible;
- Tolerate frustration;
- Accept new challenges; and
- Display a broad range of emotions.
A child with low self-esteem will:
- Make self-demeaning comments;
- Feel insecure about others’ opinions of him or her;
- Blame others for personal weaknesses;
- Be easily influenced by others; and
- Avoid situations that produce anxiety.
Self-Esteem and Faith
Self-esteem is directly related to children’s beliefs about themselves. Beliefs based on others’ praise may vary from day to day, but God’s views remain constant. Therefore, for a child to have a Christian self-concept, that child must see him- or herself from God’s viewpoint. What does the Bible say about how God views children? Children need a savior. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This includes children, who are born into original sin and then commit personal sins as they age. All children come to an age when they realize the difference between right and wrong. They then can understand that they commit sins.
We don’t need to pound children with this fact. But the Bible encourages us to “speak the truth in love.” Yes, children are sinners, but there’s hope. Jesus died for sinners. And that’s what children need to hear. Children need to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ through faith — and that, more than anything, will define who they are.
Children are valued. In Mark 10:13-16, the disciples rebuke the people who bring children to Jesus. Jesus’ response is classic and the basis of all children’s ministry. He says, “Permit the children to come to me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Jesus values children, but children don’t always feel valuable. Many experts believe that children’s low self-esteem is generally based on poor skills and incompetence in many areas of their performance. But the truth is that no child is going to perform well in every area. He may be a great speller, but he can’t throw a baseball. She may be a great tap dancer, but she thinks her hair is frizzy. Children each have certain inadequacies they must deal with in an imperfect world.
We can give children the gift of a Christ-centered self-esteem. Here’s how:
Let them know how God views them-loved, valued, and esteemed.
Say things such as, “You are special to God” or “The Bible says God loves you so much that he has counted every hair on your head!” We can remind children that God loved them enough to pay the highest price for them — his Son’s life.
Celebrate each child’s God-given strengths.
When a child displays his or her gifts, point the child to the giver. Say something like, “I thank God for giving you your beautiful voice.”
Teach children to persevere.
If a child has difficulty with a problem, don’t jump in and save the day. Pray with the child for guidance. Then ask questions to help the child think of solutions. Otherwise, your save-the-day help could send the message that the child isn’t capable.
As children grasp that their worth is not rooted in how they perform but in their relationship with God and what God says about them, they’ll truly develop positive self-esteem. And their feelings about themselves won’t be subject to whether the teacher praises their drawing each time or not.
Christine Yount Jones is the former Executive Editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.
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