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The Bullying Solution – Healthy Self-Esteem

Today, everyone is obsessed with bullies.  Wherever you turn, someone is talking about bullying, and rightly so.  According to the the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, two hundred and eighty-two thousand students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month, a child is bullied every seven minutes on a playground, an adult intervenes only four percent of the time, and peers only eleven percent.  Eighty-five percent of bullying on playgrounds goes ignored.  In order to stop this burgeoning social dilemma, we must first understand the mechanisms that create such disturbing behavior.

Why do bullies bully?  Feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, lack of confidence and I could mention numerous other traits, but basically it’s low self-esteem.  Bullies have little or no self-esteem and they prey on the kids who also exhibit low self-esteem.  Poor self-esteem is not just the cause of bullying, it is the cause of being bullied, as well.  Aye, there’s the rub.  Most parents I talk with believe that bullies are the sole cause of bullying and that is not the case.  This is why looking to authority figures for the cure isn’t working and parents are growing increasingly frustrated, anxious and angry.

Therefore, we need to rethink the concept that bullying, in and of itself, is the problem, because the core issue behind bullying isn’t bullying, it is the lack of self-esteem in our culture.  While the hue and cry is to stop the bullies, the solution to stopping bullying must also involve the children who allow themselves to be bullied.  The deeper issue behind bullying is the deterioration of a sense of self-worth, in our youth.  That is the problem, it has become all pervasive and no one can do anything about it except us, the parents.

Poor self-esteem in children has reached epidemic proportions and some saw it coming.  The results of a study published in Aggressive Behavior, in July 2001 indicated that “high self-esteem protects children and adolescents from involvement in bullying.  Thus, it is recommended that top priority be given by parents and teachers to preventing and reducing feelings of poor self-worth among children and adolescents.”  That was true then, and it is true today, when a child has good self-esteem the bullies can't get to them, they won't allow it.

The need for a child in today’s society, to develop good self-esteem early on in life, has become self-evident.  Of course, the importance of helping children develop healthy self-esteem, when they are very young, has always been important.  Today, it is critical.  Helping children develop healthy self-esteem is the most important job a parent has, and is the greatest gift a parent can give, because it will truly last a lifetime.

I cannot emphasize this enough, because bullying isn’t the only distressing result of sending children, who don’t love themselves, into hostile, aggressive arenas, nor is it the most pernicious.  According to the American Psychological Society, “Low self-esteem during adolescence predicts poor health, criminal behavior, and limited economic prospects during adulthood.”

Children with poor self-esteem are more likely to become depressed.  One of the saddest statistics I have ever come across was issued by the Centers for Disease control - suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged fifteen to twenty-four.  Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in children between the ages of ten and fourteen.

It’s an indisputable fact that up to 80% of how children will feel about themselves, for the rest of their lives, depends on how their parents interact with them, when they are very young.  Between birth and early elementary school, a child’s mind is like a sponge, it absorbs everything.  During this critical period of development, a child’s mind is also very literal, it believes everything it hears.  Before children reach the age of eight, the majority of their self-image has been formed.  It is during this developmental phase that their core, inner feelings about themselves are developed.  These ingrained feelings will manifest themselves externally as adults, in the choices they will make, throughout their lives.  Adult therapy, in essence, is the reprogramming of the insecure child inside us.

Helping your children develop healthy self-esteem cannot begin too early and it must be done by the parents, in the home environment.  Merely punishing bullies won’t stop bullying.  Improving your children’s self-esteem will.  Because, when children have good self-esteem, bullying, jealousy and prejudice are minimized, or disappear altogether.


ON THE AIR with Keith O'Neill

Keith O'Neill was on "The Lyn Fairly Show" on KKZZ-1400AM.

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Confidence - The Power Within

Keith O’Neill
Imagine how wonderfully different the world would be if everyone was confident and had great self-esteem. Bullying, prejudice, intolerance and even war would be things of the past, unnecessary artifacts from a previous era. That’s my dream, building self-esteem in children, until we have an entire generation of S-Team® Kids.
Don’t you wish you were confident in everything you do or attempt to do? Imagine how different your life would be. Happy, self-assured and fearless are just a few of the traits of the confident person. Confidence is the first attribute of self-esteem expressed in the S-Team® Motto – “I am confident, …” That wasn’t accidental. Having confidence in yourself is critical to making good decisions and performing at your best, whatever it is you choose to do. Whether it’s at school, at work, in sports, being confident gives you an edge at whatever you do.

Being confident is attractive, not to be confused with being arrogant, which is not. We are impressed with people who are confident. We notice the way they carry themselves and interact with others. Think about the people you have admired throughout your life. I’ll bet confidence was one of their strongest attributes. We are positively drawn to someone who has confidence. This holds true for adults and even more so for children.

Confidence is attractive and impressive. It is one of the first traits we look for in our friends, co-workers and personal relationships. Developing confidence allows you to be more in control of your life, because you generally make better decisions. When you are confident, you don’t worry about things you can’t control, especially what others think or feel.

Woe is the person without confidence. Lack of confidence leads to feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and fear. You don’t do life, life does you. Not developing confidence means you will miss out on a lot of opportunities. If you didn’t develop your confidence when you were very, very young, you have probably missed out on opportunities throughout your entire life. This leads to feelings of regret, and regret is something you will carry with you throughout your life. You will find it difficult to forgive yourself because you didn’t apply for that desired job or approach that person you wanted to meet. Be it personal or professional, it’s hard to live with regret. Self-doubt and the unwarranted need to please others lead to poor decision making and feelings of low self-worth. I doubt that is what you would want for yourself or your children.

How are you feeling today? Full of confidence and raring to go? Good for you. But be careful, don’t take your confidence for granted. Confidence is not something we own, it is fleeting, it is something we have to earn, everyday of our lives. How is confidence fleeting? A bad shooting streak for a basketball player, a bad investment for a financial investor, a poor movie review for a director, a poor test grade for a student, are all examples of events that can diminish someone’s confidence. All external attacks on our inner-most core feelings about ourselves. A negative comment from someone you admire can deal a blow to your self-esteem, but only if you allow it to. As John Pryne sings, “That’s the way that the world goes ‘round, You’re up one day, the next you’re down. It’s a half an inch of water, and you think you’re going to drown. That’s the way that the world goes ‘round.”

Confidence is not something that can be given to us, nor can it be taken away from us. Confidence is something we have to develop and nurture starting when we are very young, and the benefits of doing so are immense.

It’s my opinion that most important component of child development is self-esteem, and I’m sticking to it, because with a healthy self-esteem, everything else falls into place. Parenting tips and advice should concentrate more on the skills parents need in order to help their children grow up confident, happy and secure.

What a shame we can’t give confidence to someone else, especially to our children. What a great gift that would be. It’s something I would love to give be able to give to every child in the world. Alas, I cannot give you confidence and you cannot give it to your children. What I can do, is suggest some habits you can acquire that can help you help yourself and/or your children to develop confidence.

Make the choice to participate in life. Make it a habit to surround yourself with positive people. Exercise regularly and eat healthy so you maintain a weight that is natural and comfortable for you. Don’t be afraid to be unique, to be you. Challenge yourself to attempt new things that you might enjoy and give yourself enough time to really see if you do like it, or not. If not, it wasn’t a failure, it was just another valuable experience that will lead to wisdom. Tell yourself you love yourself every day, mean it when you say it and believe it when you hear it. Become your own best friend, so that all your relationships become enhancements instead of necessities. Don’t forget, perfection is an unattainable goal, so just do your best and be sure to have fun.

How you treat yourself is what you model to others and they are watching, especially your children. Learn to be confident, and when challenged make the choice to remain confident. Confidence is a precious gift, if you abuse you’ll lose it. If you nurture it and take care of it, you’ll be able to keep it in good shape forever, and I promise you’ll like the way you feel.



Helping Your Children Build Healthy Self-Esteem

Keith O’Neill
Building self-esteem in your children will give them a strong sense of self worth as adults, and therefore is a necessary component of healthy child development, yet one that is often overlooked, for lack of knowhow. When asked to define self-esteem, most people can’t. Helping parents help their children build healthy self-esteem has been my life’s work, and is what this website is all about.

Parents constantly ask me “what is self-esteem, and how do I give it to my children?” Well, first of all, you can’t give self-esteem to your children, they have to earn it for themselves. Therefore, the best parenting advice I can think of, the best parenting tips on child raising, would be to help your children build healthy self-esteem. Overcoming low self-esteem in children is critical to their success as adults. Your self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, if you have good self-esteem you feel good about yourself, if you have bad self-esteem you don’t like yourself. We as parents can’t give our children good self-esteem, but we can help them in the process of improving self-esteem.

As parents, we know what we don’t know about parenting. We know we can’t teach our children to read, or do math, or play a musical instrument, so we reach out automatically for help, we send our kids to school to learn these skills from qualified teachers. We know we’re not expected to possess that knowledge or to have the tools to teach those subjects.

The problem with understanding self-esteem begins when parents equate helping their children develop healthy self-esteem with loving and nurturing their children. While this is fundamentally true, there is so much more to it than just that. Most parents do love their children and are nurturing them, therefore they believe they have all the skills and tools needed to help their children develop healthy self-esteem. They might not, you might not, most parents don’t. Therefore, when a teacher, or friend, or family member suggests that your child might be struggling with a self-esteem issue, you equate that with your being a bad parent. You aren’t. You just didn’t have those skills or the tools, anymore than you did to teach Shakespeare or Algebra.

We’re taught all kinds of parenting skills and there are all kinds of parenting guides available, but none of them have dealt specifically with self-esteem in children. Building healthy self-esteem is perhaps the most important part of child raising and child growth, because with healthy self-esteem, everything else falls into place. That’s a powerful claim, yet it’s true. With healthy self-esteem, everything in your child’s life will be in balance and fall into its proper place. Every parent in the world wants this for their children. So, let’s begin by asking ourselves, “how can I learn to help my children develop good self-esteem?”

If self-esteem is so important, what is it? You can’t touch it, see it, smell it, hear it or taste it, yet it is one of the most important things your children will ever develop. To the psychologists and family therapists, self-esteem is your core, inner feelings about yourself, which were mostly developed by the time you were eight years old, and which manifest themselves externally, as adults, in the choices you make. Okay great, but what does that really mean to us, the parents of a child who might be feeling insecure, or angry, or a child who’s not performing well in school, getting bullied, or afraid to make new friends, or try new things? What can we do to help our children become more confident, more outgoing, more secure, happier?

Simply put, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to help them build healthy self-esteem, because it is truly a gift that will last them a lifetime. When children have good self-esteem, they feel good about themselves, like themselves, feel more confident, and are generally happy. They tend to do better at school, or at any task, because they choose to do good work. Children with healthy self-esteem are more social, they fit into many different situations, and can adapt easily. Therefore, children with strong self-esteem are willing and eager to try new things, meet new people and learn from their mistakes. They don’t get bullied, because the bully’s want to pick on the weak ones, the ones with low self-esteem. And most importantly, children who develop good self-esteem carry those traits with them into adulthood, and have the tools to not just survive, but to thrive.

We all have known people with good self-esteem and we have also known people with low or poor self-esteem. I challenge you to take a look at their lives and admit to yourself which one you would rather have, the good self-esteem life, or the poor self-esteem life? Duh, you say. But why? Why would you prefer the good self-esteem life? How does self-esteem manifest itself in our adult lives? People with good self-esteem are generally confident, secure and happy individuals, more successful, in business, in relationships, and in life. They generally get along well with others, adapt to multiple situations, and are comfortable with themselves and with others.

When you demonstrate confidence people say you have good self-esteem and when you have good self-esteem you develop confidence. When you like yourself and feel secure with who you are, you have good self-esteem, because when you have good self-esteem, you do like yourself and feel secure with who you are. When you feel worthy of good things, you have good self-esteem and when you have good self-esteem, you feel worthy of good things. When you feel like you fit in, you have good self-esteem because when you have good self-esteem, you feel like you fit in.

So self-esteem is really how you feel about yourself. Do you like yourself? Do you feel confident and happy? Do you believe in yourself? If not, how would your life be different if you had developed better self-esteem starting in your childhood? Poor self-esteem as a child leads to poor self-esteem as an adult. Child anxiety leads to adult anxiety, child depression manifests itself as adult depression. Most of the adult problems therapists deal with are routed in poor self-belief systems which were formed when their clients were very young.

People with poor self-esteem are generally insecure, unhappy and live with many regrets. When you feel insecure, you have poor self-esteem and when you have poor self-esteem, you develop insecurities. When you feel inadequate, you have poor self-esteem and when you have poor self-esteem you develop feelings of inadequacy. When you feel like an outcast, like you don’t fit in, you have poor self-esteem and when you have poor self-esteem, you feel like an outcast. Poor self-esteem is a vicious cycle. People with poor self-esteem have a difficult time making friends, fitting in, feeling secure and enjoying life. They are generally unhappy individuals that constantly wish their lives were better. They blame others for the poor choices they have made and have a hard time maneuvering through life. And, they pass those traits on to their children; they don’t have the skills or the tools to help their children, because their parents hadn’t helped them develop healthy self-esteem.

Our self-esteem is like our breathing, we don’t think about it, it’s something we do unconsciously. Self-esteem is one of our core, inner beliefs that are developed when we are very, very young. By the time children are eight years old, they have developed up to 80% of how they will feel about themselves for the rest of their lives. Whether that is positive or negative depends on their parents, caretakers, teachers, coaches and their environment. Every parent thinks they’re doing this job right, and we all do the best we can, but sometimes the results aren’t what we had hoped for, or expected.

If children feel their environment is nurturing, loving and supportive, it is conducive to the development of healthy self-esteem. If children feel their environment is negative, they feel neglected, criticized and unimportant, they will develop low or poor self-esteem. Unfortunately, and for any number of reasons, our children don’t always tell us what they are really feeling.

Self-esteem is not something we can give to our children, developing it is not something we can do for our children. Self-esteem is built by what we allow our children to do for themselves, and setting boundaries with consistent rewards and consequences. You are your child’s roadmap, be consistent, be strong and supportive. Ultimately, self-esteem in your children comes down to how they feel about themselves, deep down inside. How your children feel about themselves for the rest of their lives depends on how you interact with them when they are very, very young.

The power of the mind is incredible, as is your influence on your children. This site is dedicated to helping you discover the power you have to help your children build healthy self-esteem. Please don’t underestimate the importance of starting this process with your children as young as possible, by implementing strategies that will help you help your children develop good self-esteem and a healthy belief in self, that will last a lifetime. Welcome to the S-Team®!