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by Nellie Shani  
4/07/2010 / Family

It is frightening to imagine, if it is true what psychologists tell us, that whether a child grows up with poor self-esteem or not depends on how they were brought up during the first five years of their lives.

Why should it bother anyone whether a child has poor self- esteem of not? Let me put it this way Why should it not bother you when many young men and women with poor self- esteem often end up as drug addicts, murderers, depressed, perpetrators of domestic violence and child molesters? Isnt it interesting that between o 5 years is when most children are ignored?

Unfortunately many parents believe that so long as a child is dry, fed, clothed and has a few toys to play with, their parental duty has been accomplished. This is far from the truth.

I grew up in a culture that did not seem to value young children. Children were supposed to be seen and not heard! It was unthinkable for a child to ask a question in front of adults. Adults ate the best pieces of chicken, the very few times it was cooked in our household. It did not help that we were eight siblings, not counting the endless stream of visitors that always seemed to appear at meal times. The youngest children usually got (if they were lucky) the wing tips or the neck of the chicken, which had further been divided into two pieces! As a child I fantasized about eating a whole chicken by myself one day when I became an adult!

Nothing was ever explained to us as young children. Asking why was seen as insubordination and could incur a spanking from my older sisters. We were spanked for every mistake we made whether we understood why we were being spanked or not. For a long time I believed that adults hated children.

It is believed that children are born with a big question mark on their foreheads. The question being asked is Who am I? How that question is answered for the child will determine whether or not that child grows up with a good, healthy and positive self- esteem.

This is a good place to say that self-esteem simply means confidence in one's own worth or abilities - self-respect. It is also important to say here that a childs behavior is inextricably woven with the level of his or her self-esteem.

The late Dr Selwyn Hughes in his wonderful and informative book called How To Help A Friend says that human behavior is not the result of chance occurrence, but that behind the attitudes and actions is a history of experience, which determine their behavior.

Parents and guardians have a responsibility not only before their children, but also before God to bring up them up in such a way that they grow up having a positive outlook towards God, themselves and other people. Bad and destructive behavior in older children is often connected to a lack of basic needs that they were deprived of in childhood. If we start to connect the dots, then we can clearly see why Satan would work hard to make sure that children grow up with low self-esteem as a result of the kind of environments that they grew up in as young children. What are the basic needs that children are born with and how can parents and guardians meet them?

Human beings need to know that they are loved and wanted. They need encouragement rather than constant rebuke.

Nellie Odhuno Shani is a Counselor, Conference speaker and writer. Her first books are available on, Barnes and Nobles and on her author's websites.

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