building self esteem


I Heard You When You Said. . .
By Dan Zadra, Creator
Lunch Mail for Kids
(c) 2003, Reprinted with Permission

(Parents and teachers like to say that we want our kids to have sound self-esteem. But what exactly is self-esteem? Who has it? Where do you get it? In our student workshops we always remind kids that self-esteem is actually an emotion. It's that deep down, under-the-skin feeling that all of us carry around about ourselves. It's not how your parents, teachers, or friends feel about you---it's how you feel about you when no one else is around.)

If you feel warm, loving and appreciative toward yourself...

if you consistently like and accept yourself despite your
weaknesses and human frailties. . .

then you probably have high self-esteem. If, on the other hand, you feel negative, hostile and critical toward yourself. . .

if you tend to belittle or disparage everything you do. . .

then you probably have low self-esteem.

The bad news is that low self-esteem is at the root cause of nearly every teenage problem, including violence, bullying, suicide, drug and alcohol problems, teen pregnancy and low achievement.

The good news is that high self-esteem can be nurtured in our children. Good parents and teachers know that the cultivation of sound self-esteem is not something we do for our kids now and then, it's something we must do for them every day and in every way. Your children may or may not appreciate it now, but they will definitely thank you later in life. (This letter from a teen-age boy to his parents is a good example.)


Dear Mom and Dad,

Next to good values, the greatest gift you have ever given me is the gift of sound self-esteem. It has taken me all these years to realize that you knew exactly what you were doing. You knew that sound self-esteem cannot be acquired overnight---it can only be acquired over time. So, starting when I was just a little guy, you patiently and lovingly sent me positive messages every day. You thought I wasn't listening, and at times I acted bored or indifferent. But now that I'm going off to college, I want you to know that I heard every word---and, oh, what a difference it has made in my life.

I heard you when you said. . . .

* Son, always remember that you are a unique and precious person, not because of what other people might think or say about you, but simply because you were born that way.

* The same Creator who designed the eagle, the mountain, the oceans, the meadows and the heavens also designed you. God made you, son, and God makes no junk.

* You are not perfect, son, none of us are. But, despite your occasional screw-ups, you are still the one-and-only best "you" that ever was or ever will be. No one on earth can do a better job of being you than you.

* No matter what happens in your life, son, always know in your heart that you are worthy of the respect of others. But this means that they, too, are worthy of your respect. Treat everyone you meet with consideration and warm regards. Never put yourself up by putting others down.

* Have faith in your own potential, son, for it is immense. Your true potential is like an iceberg---90 percent is concealed beneath the surface where no one, including you, can see it. Son, no one really knows to what heights you might soar; even you will not know until you spread your wings and fly.

* Aim high in work and life, son. Most people don't aim too high and miss; they aim too low and hit.

* Remember that talent is a treasured gift from God. What you do with that talent is your gift to God.

* Be your own expert in life, son. Allow yourself the freedom to choose your own path, without building a prison for yourself with "have to's". . . "can't's" . . . or "they won't let me's." There will always be lots of people who will be willing to tell you all the reasons why you can't succeed at something. It's up to you, son, to tell yourself all the reasons why you can.

* Another name for self-esteem is self-love. True self-love is humble, son, and has nothing to do with puffed-up egotistical conceit. Realize that the most arrogant people are actually the most insecure on the inside. They strut and brag to convince themselves that they are important. That's not self-love; it's self-doubt.

* Be your own best friend, son. When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, don't beat up on yourself. If your best friend was having a bad day, you wouldn't belittle or ridicule him---you would comfort and encourage him. Self-esteem asks that you learn to treat yourself that way.

* Never let the fear of making a mistake hold you back from making the attempt. Mistakes are great, son---they are steppingstones to growth---so be ready and willing to make lots of them.

* Bounce back quickly from temporary setbacks. Remember, it's not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that really counts.

* Never let anyone steal your dreams. The guy who smokes two packs of cigarettes every day can give you all the reasons why you can't run a marathon. Listen carefully to the little voice inside you. Follow your dreams---they know the way.

* Set goals in all areas of your life, son. Goals have a way of turning your wishes into want's, your dreams into plans, and your can'ts into cans.

* Be accountable for your own decisions and actions. Remember that the quality of your decisions will determine the quality of your life.

* Keep on keepin' on, son. Know in your heart that the human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. Never despise a bubble because it bursts---just immediately set to work to blow another one.

* Have the esteem to take care of your health, son. If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?

* Treasure the moment. Live each day on purpose. Live some, work some, sing and dance and read and play every day some. Remember that time is a very precious gift from God ---so precious that it is only given to us moment by moment.

* Above all, do good things for others, son. To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; that is to have succeeded.


Dan Zadra is one of the creators of Lunch Mail for Kids, fun little cards that are a great way to show you care when you can't be there. Simply write a little note on the back and let them work their magic. Your child will love the feeling of discovering the surprise messages inside! Find out how you can create your own magic moments and start a treasured tradition in your family at

Editor's Note...  Folks, please take a look at the products offered at  What a wonderful and creative way to jump-start the process in your life.  Let us be encouragers and leaders and parents!

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(c) 2002 Caton Development, Inc.

self esteem parenting children