Children growing in self-esteem manifest many changes: they look more grown-up, more in control of themselves, more poised and self-confident. Generally, they seem more outgoing, even walk straighter with their heads up instead of looking at the floor. Relationships with peers often improve markedly, and so does their school work. Telling children the signs of growth you deserve in them facilitates the self-esteem process.
That’s what I did with David. I constantly pointed out to him how he was succeeding, what he was learning, how much he had learned since we began working together. I often showed him how many pages we had completed in his class workbook. On my desk I kept a growing looseleaf notebook of his stories and drawings, which, I reminded him, represented his hard work and talent. In another notebook, I kept his spelling words-on each was a word, divided up into syllabels with a short definition, just as in the dictionary- so he could watch his own progress as the stack of pages grew. I talked to him about the many signs of improvement of which I was aware. I encouraged him to join me in discussing and explaining their significance. I told him he was in the process of learning “mastery”. He really liked that that word.
I was impressed with David’s mastery, the effort he put into his own work, his growing enthusiasm, his increasing ease of talking self-affirmatively with me. And I told him so, again and again.
Orignially, David came to our sessions speaking with a slight lisp, which must have been exaggerated by his sense of anxiety. The lisp became less noticeable as his ability to express himself to acknowledge my valuing of him.
In an earlier chapter, I wrote at length of Sandy, how her self-confidence grew and her self-image changed to that of a competent, lovable, valued person, as she learned to express herself through dialouge with me and through creative writing.
Back in the classroom, the teachers of both these children described them as having “bloomed.” The children looked different, the teachers said, they stood erect, held their heads up confidently, no longer had the hiding look in their eyes, seemed more mature and fleshed-out as persons. Instead of being “not there”, the children now seemed to have substance, presence, spirit. I noticed this as well as the teachers. And their classmates noticed it too. With the other students in the class, they seemed more confident yet relaxed, more welcoming and welcomed, more interactive and alive in their responses.
Sandy, who had always been a longer and often came to see me during her lunch hour rather than be totally by herself, first made a friend with she played jacks outside my door. Soon she began conversing with other students I tutored and developed a friendship with them. In her class, she not only began to participate more and agreed to help write the class play, which she proudly invited me to see, a risk she never would have dared take when I first knew her.
It’s been suggested something more was happening to these children than learning how to spell and developing their egos. The development I refer to as a sense of self is really a spiritual growth. What happens when children are blooming is their spiritual sides are growing. There is transformation in these children, and whether you want to call it blooming or something else, whatever name you give to describe the force at work, it has to do with the development of the inner self, the spirit. And it shows externally in their urge to relate, a growing gracefulness, a zest for life. I loved the children, but I didn’t change them. They transformed themselves. The growth happened inside them. In these pages I have tried to examine and share how I facilitated it.
As for this other quality, this force that works at the deepest level, I don’t know how to name it except to say I brought with me a belief in it, and passed this belief onto the children. It was Joan who said I believed in her when she didn’t yet believe in herself. I brought to children my belief in their ability. They were valuable to me and I believed in their valuableness, they were lovable to me and I believed in their valuableness, they were lovable to me and I believed in their lovableness, they were capable to me and I believed in their capabilities. I wanted my belief in them to stay with them, no matter where they were and no matter what the circumstances. I wanted to stay spiritually present to them and to be a spiritual support to them always. Somehow that inner connection between us happened and was understood by the children.
To touch the life of another human being is to have your life touched. And to touch the soul or influence the spiritual growth of another human being is to feel that touch upon your own soul and your own spiritual growth.
Self-Esteem Principle: Self-esteem in children manifests itself by transforming them in physical, emotional, social, and spiritual ways.