When a child knows that they are safe, they becomes socially secure, and develop a positive self-esteem, essential for a healthy and productive life.
The need to be socially secure, social/belonging, defines our desire to be with other people, and helps us understand our place as good citizens of our communities. Being socially secure means being loved and nurtured, a pre-requisite for developing positive family and community relationships, social acceptance, and interpersonal skills. This allows us to develop meaningful and healthy personal friendships and strong marriages, forming the basis for raising emotionally healthy children.
These skills are also the basis for character development and morality, community teamwork and workplace collaboration all essential traits of a good citizen, and of an ordered society. We learn personal responsibility, and how our personal behavior impacts our communities, whether good or bad, as well as taking responsibility for others when needed. Without such understanding, our communities would be far less positive and productive.
The basis for strong, positive social skills begins at home; how do parents/caregivers and other family members relate to each other? We know that children whose parents are physically there, but emotionally absent, will often have dysfunctional relationships with others, minimal empathy or compassion, and sometimes even become sociopathic in nature. Prisons are full of adults who were neglected as children, and are socially and emotionally insecure.
Physical contact is essential, hugs, pats on the head, holding hands, all convey positive and supportive emotions. If most of the touching that a child receives is negative, then his response to parents, community and school will be negative. And young children need this from men as well as women (although it’s difficult for young men to be readily accepted as preschool and kindergarten teachers because of preconceived notions about appropriate touching).
Self Esteem. Positive Self-Esteem develops when we feel safe, receive love and respect from others, and are able to fully use our cognitive and creative capabilities. As children are loved and respected, they learn to interact with their world and the people in it, they learn about themselves, and they learn to like themselves for who they are.
They experience a sense of belonging to a community; and as they work together with others, they learn that I’m OK, You’re OK. They also learn to laugh at themselves, and to laugh with others; and as they accept others, and are accepted, they become poised and confident when faced with unfamiliar people and situations. Without a sense of personal security, or self-esteem, it’s extremely difficult to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations we all face in our lifetimes.
Children begin internalizing self-worth by following their interests, solving problems or not and learning to think through new strategies if they fail. Even as adults, we’ve internalized how smart we are or are not; I can’t do math, I’m terrible at drawing I’m not smart enough to be a doctor/lawyer/entrepreneur.
But if we encourage our children to overcome a failure by trying again, they learn to think about how to solve problems, rather than blaming themselves for not having the ability or being smart enough. They develop confidence as they work through the failure to ultimate success; and are less likely to be afraid of failure and more likely to become intrinsically motivated to keep working at a task until they succeed.
All learning involves taking a risk, being willing to take in new information or try a new activity and children must have some level of self-esteem in order to take those risks. Children develop feelings of accomplishment by learning to fail sometimes; and then getting up, trying it again, and being successful. They also learn that failure doesn’t have to be permanent, or define them as a person. They begin to internalize a sense of achievement and responsibility so that, when they fail, they have the courage to get up and try again, an essential skill for all of us.