Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...


Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...


The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Developing Self-Esteem and Resilience

I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is MY response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized. —Haim Ginott from Teacher and Child, 1972.
Although we may not be teachers in the traditional sense of the word, as parents we are educators and models of acceptable thoughts, feelings and behaviours to our children. Unfortunately life isn’t always fair and as parents we have the intrinsic need to try and protect our children from this unfairness.
However, there are many things in this world that we are unable to change, and as a parent we need to teach our children from these situations and help them cultivate the skills to overcome adversities. If children learn to cope with an unfair world, by being taught that things don’t always work out the way we want them to, but are still useful as they provide us with an opportunity to learn and grow- they will be able to distinguish between competence and confidence. That it is ok not to be perfect or to succeed all of the time. And that it is ok to make mistakes and learn from them, as they show us where we need to go and what we need to do.
By suspending our need to be overprotective or jumping in too quickly sometimes to help or “make it better”; we are engaging in a resilience and confidence building activity, which teaches children that it is permissible to “fall” sometimes, and they will develop the ability to recover and bounce back.
What is self-esteem?
As children develop, they begin to understand more about themselves, construct a more intricate self-portrait, and evaluate the qualities they perceive themselves as having (e.g. social acceptance, scholastic competence, athletic competence, physical attractiveness). This evaluative component of self is known as self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem generally feel quiet positive about the characteristics and competencies they display. They are satisfied with the type of person they are, recognize their strengths, acknowledge their weaknesses and hopefully overcome them. In contrast, children with low self-esteem, tend to focus on their weaknesses and perceived inadequacies.
How do children develop a self-concept?
Through play and the exploration of their environments, children learn to be independent and trust their own abilities. Research has shown that by the age of 4 or 5, children have already established an early and meaningful sense of self-esteem.
Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s self-concepts. A nurturing-democratic parenting style- in which parents are warm and supportive, set clear standards for their children to live up to, and allow them to have a voice regarding decisions that affect them personally- have been associated with high self-esteem.
Their peers later influence a child’s global appraisal of self. Children use social comparison information to tell them whether they perform better or worse in various domains than their peers (e.g. “how many answers did you get right in the test?”).
By early adolescence, self-esteem becomes increasingly centered on relationships. This is often referred to as relational self-worth and includes seeing oneself favourably in terms of dimensions such as, romantic appeal and the quality of close friendships.
What is resilience?
Resilience has been defined as the focus upon strengths in overcoming adversity or the ability to successfully deal with life’s obstacles. It is the capacity to possess sufficient inner strength, to cope with demands and challenges and to feel competent. Children with a “resilient mindset” tend to view the world in a positive, hopeful and optimistic way.
The 3 sources of resilience:
There is a three-part model, that can be used to describe a resilient mindset and children with resilience tend to possess several qualities from all 3 sources- I HAVE, I AM, I CAN:
People around me I trust and who love me, no matter what
People who set limits for me so I know when to stop before there is danger or trouble
People who show me how to do things right by the way they do things
People who want me to learn to do things on my own
People who help me when I am sick, in danger or need to learn
A person people can like and love
Glad to do nice things for others and show my concern
Respectful of myself and others
Willing to be responsible for what I do
Sure things will be all right
Talk to others about things that frighten me or bother me
Find ways to solve problems that I face
Control myself when I feel like doing something not right or dangerous
Figure out when it is a good time to talk to someone or to take action
Find someone to help me when I need it
For example, Jeremy aged 5, comes home from school, and tells his mother that there is a big boy who is bullying him. He is feeling scared because even though he has told him to stop kicking and biting; he stops for a while and then starts again. Jeremy’s mom listens to his story, tells him how sorry she is that he has these experiences and comforts him. She tells him that he is right to tell his teacher and should continue to do so until the bullying stops. She offers to talk to his teacher or to the other boy’s parents, but wants Jeremy to develop a sense of independence, so she does not insist. Jeremy feels loved and supported by his mother’s response. He feels comfortable talking about his feelings and listening to her advice about the available solutions to his problem. He realizes that he can play a role in solving the problem, that his feelings have been validated and that his mom will respect and support his decisions.
Jeremy’s mom drew on the I HAVE features, namely “I have people in my life who love me unconditionally” and “I have people who will protect me if I am in danger”. Jeremy’s I AM features were strengthened by knowing that he is “Liked and Loved”. His I CAN features included: “knowing that he can talk to others about his problems” and “finding someone to help him when he needed it”.
The relationship between high self-esteem and resilience:
Resilient children tend to feel special and appreciated. They have an awareness of both their strengths and weaknesses, and are therefore able to set realistic goals and expectations. They focus on those aspects of their lives over which they have control rather than those they have little or no influence over. Children with a resilient mindset are likely to have developed effective problem solving skills and are more likely to view hardships, mistakes and obstacles as challenges to confront rather than as fears or stressors to avoid. Resiliency and high self worth are also evident in significant relationships with peers and other adults, as well as the ability to seek assistance and nurturance in appropriate ways.
How children handle making mistakes is often a clear indicator of their self-esteem. Children who are easily discouraged and engage in lots of negative self talk; show strong signs of having low self-esteem. As parents, it is our responsibility to monitor our reactions to our children’s learning experiences. Our responses to their mistakes, such as an accidental breakage or to their carelessness, can have a significant impact on their sense of self. Young children in particular are reliant on others for their sense of safety and self worth. Children who feel defeated are less likely to ask for help and tend to withdraw rather than responding to the different ways of tackling a problem.
Strategies parents can use to foster resilience and high self-esteem:
If parents set and evaluate realistic expectations, emphasize that mistakes are both acceptable and accepted, communicate that their children are unconditionally loved and accepted even when they make mistakes, and model effective strategies for dealing with mistakes and setbacks; they are helping their children develop healthy self-concepts and a resilient mindset. Resilient children tend to view mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. In contrast, children who lack a resilient mindset and are not hopeful, often experience mistakes as an indication of personal failure.
Create situations and possible experiences where your child can express their skills and enthusiasm, with sufficient opportunities for advancements and success. By emphasizing, identifying and reinforcing their strengths in areas of their lives that they and others deem important, you are helping them foster true self-worth, resilience and hope. In other situations that involve problem solving abilities, help your child consider various solutions, select what they feel will bring about the most satisfactory outcome, and learn from that experience. Through guidance rather than dictation, children are able to establish a sense of ownership for their decisions and remain in control.
Parents can share their own experiences and memories of their own anxieties about making mistakes. By placing the issue about the fear of making mistakes out in the open, you hopefully reduce its potency and simultaneously increase opportunities for learning.
True self-worth, resilience and hope
The fear of making mistakes and the possible associated fears of not being perfect, looking foolish, feeling incompetent or anxious; are one of the greatest obstacles to developing high self-esteem and resilience.
Children with low self-esteem or school problems frequently feel defeated and shy away from tasks that may lead to failure. Parents and teachers are responsible for helping children realize that mistakes are an essential ingredient in the process of learning. It is the way in which we respond to mistakes that is important. By portraying mistakes as opportunities for learning and being appropriate role models, children feel; they have people who are supportive of them and want them to learn to do things on their own (I HAVE), they are liked/ loved and valued (I AM), and provide problem solving skills or alternatives that can be chosen and utilized (I CAN).