The Self-Esteem Vaccine – Fosters the Life of your Child



Firstly, let’s try to understand what self-esteem really is. Self esteem maybe defined as a person’s self worth or how a person thinks of himself/herself. It usually develops from childhood and matures until we reach our adulthood.

Self- esteem in children is like a weapon in this challenging world. A child, who is loved and accepted for who he/she is, usually develops a high self-esteem; and is much capable of coping conflicts, stressful situations, and high pressure circumstances. They are better prepared to take on new challenges and live life to its fullest. They know their strengths and weaknesses; they are more optimistic, and even more realistic with reasonable expectation from others.

On the contrary, children with low self-esteem find it difficult to handle stressful situations and challenges, leading to major anxiety, panic, low performance issues, self- doubt and frustration. They have self-critical thoughts which are generalized as being “I am not good enough!” or “I can’t do anything right!”. They become solemn, withdrawn, or even clinically depressed at times.

Self-esteem originates early in life. Once we reach our adulthood, it’s difficult to change the programming we have acquired in the course of our life, or how we have learned to perceive things- old habits die hard. Hence, it would be very wise and intuitive of parents to develop and promote their child’s self-esteem early on.

The following are few tips that would boost your child’s self-esteem.

Let them take risks in life (Raise risk takers)

Let your children put themselves out there; in order to do so you have to step back. To build confidence in children, you have to let your children take chances; make their own choices and let them take responsibility for the choices as well.Throw them in the deep end and they will reach the shallow end on their own.

Let them fall (It is not about never falling, it is about always getting back up)

Sometimes, when children take their first step they fall- please let them fall, and tell them that it is okay to fall, it’s a part of life, you can’t always win. Let children try, fail, try again and fail again; but when, they finally succeed- they learn more about their own capabilities, strength and weaknesses. Many parents think that failure and struggle in life will result in poor self-esteem in children, but it’s actually a golden opportunity to help build it. The rain never stopped the itsy bitsy spider from climbing up, did it?

Unconditional Love (No terms and conditions)

Let your child know that your love is without conditions. Even if she/he makes mistakes or takes a wrong turn in life, it doesn’t make the parents stop loving him/her any less; your doors should always be open to your child- in fact your child must know you are his/her life line.

Be specific in your praise (Don’t just slap a gold star on everything)

Always praise your child in his/her achievements, but be specific. For instance, if a child gets good marks in her/his English exam, don’t just say “good effort”; tell her/him what a great job he/she has done on the essay, and how impressed you were. Do not praise the beautiful drawing your child did on the neighbour’s wall!

Let your child know how proud you are of them (cheer a little louder)

A little goes a long way. Your child needs to know how proud you are of of him/her. They need to know you see them struggle, suffer and win. You need to encourage them when they bring home a trophy- make them a trophy case and get ice cream; and when they don’t, they still deserve an ice cream for trying.

Avoid saying hurtful things (thou shall not hurt)

Children are usually sensitive to critical comments. Parents need to be extra cautious with their use of words. Parents usually end up saying hurtful things or slapping their child- especially when they are busy. So, whenever your child comes asking for your help- though you are on the edge, stop, take a deep breath, see what your child needs and help them; if not urgent, explain gently that you are too busy and will help her/him, but in a little while. Instead of being physical or being loud to the child, try explaining to them calmly. Children who don’t feel safe, or are abused at home, are at the greatest risk for developing poor self-esteem; and they may even resort to a conflicted life.

Set Goals (brief them on objectives)

Teach your children to make goals in life, and help them accomplish them; they may take pride in their achievements which will help a lot in boosting their self-esteem. And also show them the importance of planning. You are never lost when you have a map.

Be a Great Role Model for your Child (Do as I do)

You can’t expect your children to have a high self-esteem, if you are constantly complaining about things yourself, and showing a pessimistic personality; your children mimic you. You need to nurture your own self-esteem and your children will have a great role model to look up to.

Be your child’s counselor

Be your child’s counselor instead of asking others for help. If you think your child is suffering with low self-esteem, try to figure out what could have gone wrong; sit down with your child, talk to him/her, try to listen to him/her, give him/her your undivided attention. Even if the child doesn’t want to talk initially, keep on trying, he will open up eventually. If you are consistent, you should take professional help only in worst case scenarios ,but first you must try it on your own, because you can’t substitute parental love and attention with any professional help; and if, you are not ready to guide your child, then someone else will, that could end badly.

Lastly, parents should acknowledge that promoting healthy self-esteem in children is as important as giving your child three meals and a warm jacket in winters. Healthy self-esteem is the greatest gift that parents can give to their children.

(Part 2) Parents as Counsellors

Counseling-triennale[Continued from here]

What are the opportunities/signs of counseling for parents?

If the child appears:

  1. Unhappy
  2. Aloof, uninterested/withdrawn
  3. Unusually reserved
  4. Seems nervous and afraid
  5. Shows unusual behaviour or looks disturbed

Even under the above tremendous pressures, each child has a different absorption capacity. As a parent, we need to develop such a bond with them that we can read their unsaid words, silent body language, etc. If we suspect some turmoil, we should be available for him at the cross roads. As the right moment occurs, he may share his miseries with us. We can’t be over inquisitive or nosey- especially if the child is older and a self-driven individual who wants to assess his own developmental capacity. He may share with parents once the trouble is overcome as he reflects back and relieves himself. It is a moment of growth and wisdom for him.

What does it mean to be your kid’s counselor?

  1. Your children feel comfortable to open their personal matters before you. (They can unload the emotional garbage which might include crying, blaming, accusing, swearing, etc.)
  2. They feel safe to share their worries and most personal concerns with you. (He needs to feel heard completely with no hurdles, judgments, rebukes, threat of punishment, negative reaction from your side as a parent.)
  3. They consider you wise and trustworthy and therefore value your advice. (Perceived credibility is the actual credibility.)
  4. You can easily know when your child is disturbed and need support. (He might withdraw, stop eating, slam doors, look moody, try to be aloof, etc.)
  5. All of you feel good and relaxed after the session. (The emotional strength of the parent needs to be developed so that he/she doesn’t end up needing a counseling session after hearing out his/her child’s worries.)

 The counseling framework for parents
1. Prepare yourself
Do your mental homework before approaching the child. Imagine all possible problems and their causes, the kid’s perception of the problem, expectation of the people around the kid from him, etc.

2. Spare time for a session
Find a peaceful place and choose the best time.

3. Be happy and stay calm
Tend to your own emotional landscape so as not to react before the kid when he is unloading his emotions before you. It is essential to conquer your own mood first.

4. Encourage your child to express his problem
Convey care and warmth through your body language, facial expressions and tone, etc.

5. Listen actively
This means no interruption, no pretend listening while you are multi-tasking, etc.

6. Rephrase what you understand
This is important so that the child’s intention and purpose is understood with clarity and no miscommunication happens.

7. Acknowledge the feelings of your child
Albert Einstein once lamented: “Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me.” Taking care of your child is easy. Taking care of your child’s feelings is challenging.

8. Ask about the causes and expectations
Analyze the problem and situation with your child. Don’t offer an immediate solution or suggestion yourself.

9. Give confidence and offer helpful tips
Let the child take a responsible decision himself.

Lastly and most importantly, children will learn best, when they are trusted, valued, owned, encouraged and made comfortable. This does not mean that we surrender to their whims and fancies, let them disown their responsibilities, bend and break the family rules. It certainly means that we treat them with respect and empower them to take value-based decisions in life.

Adapted by Rana Rais Khan from an interactive workshop at L2L Academy Karachi

Ask the Savvy Parent: Homework Hercules

homeworkMy son is around 5. Getting him to sit down for homework is a Herculean task. Please suggest proactive tips. I want him to love the process of learning, not dread it.

Dear Parent,

I’m surprised that kids as early as 5 years old get homework. Where did the fun go? I could write on end about the issues I have with homework and why, as a teacher for the most part, I dislike it, but let’s stay on the task at hand.

First off, you are not alone in this and it’s important to know and understand that the problem is not with your child. The homework is the problem. Homework is a constant for most children; it is always there. And for many children, it is often a chore. Just the concept of “homework” can cause multiple anxieties and negative feelings. Students may struggle with and/or resist homework for a variety of reasons. These may include any of the following:

  • The child is experiencing some aspect of a learning disability or learning difference.
  • Your child doesn’t understand or have a strong grasp on the knowledge foundation related to what is being asked of him or her.
  • The child lacks or is not using appropriate strategies or tools.
  • Your child is experiencing fatigue, either processing fatigue or general fatigue.

So how can you work around this? How can you turn that chore into a fun challenge?

Here are 7 strategies that can help:


  1. Fun: Bring fun back into learning by finding creative ways to accomplish the task and try to add more hands on components. It’s a known fact that young children respond well to games as motivational aids. Use Mnemonics, poems, games etc. to make it more exciting. Use a timer. It makes the passage of time more concrete for your child. Identify a reasonable time for your child to complete an assignment or section of the assignment. Turn it into a fun game/race. Make home as much of an enjoyable experience as possible
  2. Consistency: Set up a regular schedule and time for homework. For example every day at 5:00 pm. Stick to this schedule even if, on the off day, there isn’t any homework. Use it as ‘study or review time’ instead. The key is consistency.
    If you live in the America, the “10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which recommends that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so forth
  3. Chunking: Sometimes the amount of homework given can be daunting. Break down the homework into smaller, more achievable tasks. If you have to, spread it out during the day.
  4. Incentives: Some children need external motivators to help maintain focus on the task. Let your child know that they will have access to certain privileges when they have completed their homework. For example, you might say, “Once you’ve completed your homework time, you may go watch a TV programme.” Be clear with your child about the consequences for refusing to complete his homework, or for putting his work off until later. Remember, consequences should be short term, and should fit the “crime.” You might say, “If you choose not to finish your homework during the scheduled time, you will not be allowed to play with your Legos. Tomorrow, you’ll get another chance.” The next day, your child gets to try again. Do NOT take away privileges for more than a day; it is unreasonable and unfair and your child will lose any incentive to do better the next time.
  5. Behaviour vs. Motivation: Kids don’t place as much importance on schoolwork as you do. When you focus on their behaviour, not their motivation, you will begin to see some improvement in their homework skills. You can use your child’s motivation to your advantage if they have something they’d like to earn. For example if your child has been asking you for a pet gold fish. “I know you want to get a goldfish. You need to show me you can be responsible and finish your homework before we can talk about getting a pet.” By doing this, you sidestep all the arguments around both the homework and the permit.
  6. Encouragement: This is one of the most important things a parent can do. Provide encouragement frequently throughout the task, helping your child move forward to finish the assignment. For example, “I know this is hard, but I’m sure you can do it with just a little help. Let’s just start with one small part.”
  7. Practicing Skills for Success: Tying homework compliance with your child’s desires isn’t about having your child jump through hoops in order to get something they want. It’s not even about making them take something seriously, when they don’t see it that way or the same way you do. The goal is to help your child learn the skills they need to live life successfully. We all have to do this. We all have occasions where we have to follow a rule, even when we disagree with it. When you create mandatory, daily homework time, you help your child practice these skills. When you tie homework time to daily, practical incentives, you encourage your child to succeed.

Insha’Allah I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent


Dear Savvy Parent – Jekyll and Hyde

handprintDear Savvy Parent,

I have two questions:
1. At times, it seems my son has two personalities: a well-behaved one (in front of his father) and the typical toddler behaviour (in front of me and any female relatives). Is this normal?
2. He behaves fairly well at home, but at grandparents’ and in public (when his father is not there), he constantly pushes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. It almost seems he wants to check how far he can go before I snap… Again, is it normal for boys his age?


Dear Parent,

It is very common for young children to behave differently at home from when away from parents or away from the home. Do not worry that your child has a case of the “Jekyll and Hyde” behaviour, it is normal and I’m sure many other parents can attest to this.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the worst behaviour that is saved for parents and generally it tends to be the mothers that get the brunt of it.

How does one deal with this?

First of all find a strategy to deal with your anger. Ask yourself, what is your breaking point and how can you prevent yourself from reaching it? Figure out what works for you. For example, take a few slow breaths while reciting some tasbih quietly to yourself when you start to feel yourself getting angry.

When a child insists on something or is unwilling to comply with your wishes, it can be tempting to give in, especially if it means avoiding a tantrum, but all children need boundaries, and the best thing you can do to encourage positive behaviour when your child acts up around you is to be vigilant about setting and enforcing boundaries. Do not get into a power struggle with your child. Generally, in the case of a power struggle, parents feel that their power is being tested and challenged by the child.

The more the parent tries to exert power, the easier it is for the child to win simply by saying “no” or making some excuse and then the focus becomes more about who’s in charge rather than the misbehaviour itself. I am sure many parents out there have found themselves in this exact situation. Remember whatever is going on, whatever your child is doing, losing your temper won’t help. It may feel good or like it’s working in the short term, because you have enforced your parental authority and power, but in the long run the child has learned an ineffective lesson about managing conflict. Ask yourself, “How can I best handle that situation and how can I make this work without fighting?” You’ll have a much better chance of resolving this situation effectively.

Your child is old enough and I’m sure has a pretty good handle on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour, hence the button pushing and testing of boundaries. Again, yes, it is all very normal.

Next, lay the ground rules. Remain firm and consistent; set clear and most importantly FAIR consequences for unacceptable behaviour. For example, if your child doesn’t clean up his toys, then you take those toys away (set a reasonable time limit, such as 2 days). Another example would be, if your child has a nasty attitude around family members, you will send him away to another room (for example). If he can’t be nice to others, he must be alone. Before going out or visiting grandparents, discuss what is expected from him before hand. When deciding on a consequence, avoid situations that put your child in control of others, such as: “We can all go get ice cream after you clean up your toys.” This allows your child to control all family members and does not put any real consequences in place for their behaviour. It will only exacerbate their passive aggressive behaviour.

Lastly, remember the intent of consequences. They should not be to punish your child for the sake of punishment. Consequences should be logical and a form of discipline that parents should use to teach their child a lesson. So when you remove and reinstate privileges, in a calm manner be sure to explain to your child why/how he misbehaved and what you expect of him next time.

Make sure both you and your husband (and any other family members you may be living with) are on the same page with regards to unacceptable behaviour and it consequences. Consistency is the key!

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!!

The Savvy Parent

Ask the Savvy Parent – Autism

autism_pic__alwaysDear Savvy Parent

I was encouraged by your reply about aggression in kids and dealing with it. I faced the same problem with my younger child who is now seven and has mild autism. He used to be aggressive as he had poor language skills and could not express himself well and did not understand what the other kids were doing and possibly felt anger that the other kids got so much attention because of their better skills. After 4 years of trying out positive behaviour techniques as mentioned by you and speech therapy, I notice a lot of change. Presently, he can play with peers for about 15-20 minutes without getting agitated or aggressive. His tolerance and respect for other kids has increased tremendously though we continue to try to increase his language and social skills.

I wish to know whether I should prefer to send my child to a special needs classroom with 7 other special needs kids or prefer to send him to the routine school and class with 20 other kids with teaching assistant supporting him. Do kids with special needs feel better around kids who have similar challenges as them? Thanks a lot.

Dear Parent,

I’m so glad to hear that the positive techniques you have been using with your son are helping. Having worked with many young kids with autism I can empathize and know how challenging and exhausting it can be. I commend you on your patience and hard work.

As you are probably well aware, children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) need lots of repetition and patience and one needs to find ways to help them deal with their social challenges. It’s so great to hear that your son is able to play with his peers for a period of time without getting agitated and aggressive. Keep up the good work!

As far as the school setting, you know your son best, so only you and your husband can ultimately make that decision for your son. Whether a special needs child should be mainstreamed in an inclusive classroom often depends on the severity. In my experience, special needs children tend to do better in an inclusive environment. Those children on the spectrum can benefit tremendously as much of their challenges are social. Not only is it helpful for the child but the classmates also learn how to interact and deal with children with special needs so that the child can feel welcome. However, it works well ONLY if the right resources are there to support your son.

There are, however, a few potential drawbacks to inclusion. Besides the school not being about to provide the necessary support and resources for a child, children who have ASD in a typical classroom may suffer from bullying and teasing.

It is for this reason that it is very important that the school is on board and that you have an IEP in place so that your child can be assisted in the best way possible. If you haven’t already, you should meet with the school. Some of the things you may want to discuss would be, Is it a 1:1 aide or the aide is for the entire classroom? Will there be an adapted curriculum in place (if this is a need for your son)? Will he need a special social group or a peer buddy to help him assimilate better? Make sure the school and classroom teacher is on board and that you as parents and the school are working together to help your son.

The only time I would advise a parent to go against inclusion would be if the needs of the child are not being met or the child’s needs are unique and severe.

Insha’Allah hope this helps and may Allah (swt) guide you to what is best for your son.

Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent