SELF ESTEEM – is our immune system protecting us from the negativity in the world. Our armour protects us from harsh words and the hardships of life.

SELF ESTEEM can be built by changing our perspective. How we look at failure and the negative events in our lives. It is all PERSPECTIVE.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

― Abraham Lincoln


Giving out ribbons for losing is not a solution and not a reality
Telling kids they are great today when they are not creating problems later – American Idol example
Not permitting children to fail
Role modelling poor self-esteem
We need to help children develop an accurate perception of life and the ability to interact with it. Rescuing children and giving them the answers all the time denies children the opportunity to develop the skills they need to have healthy self-esteem.


EXERCISE: Tell parents to place the letter “d” with their fingers on their chin. When you look at the audience, you will notice that most parents have put the letter “d” on their cheeks, as this is where you have placed your letter “d.” This is what you modelled. People are more likely to imitate what they see than what they hear.

Todd’s story: Todd was a seven-year-old boy from Falgarwood Public School in Oakville. He was up to get vaccinated at his school. His mother came in with Todd hysterical, telling me how much Todd hated needles. Todd was in a “get me the heck out of here” mode. I calmly took Todd away from his overreactive mom and brought him to see the nurse. I calmly talked to Todd, diverting his attention away from the needle. I told him it would feel like a pinprick. He got the needle and then laughed, realizing it was no big deal. He would have had to be pinned to the chair if he had stayed with his mother.

Parents need to model good self-esteem. How do you react to negativity? To the times you fail? To your bad days?


It’s alright to fail, as failing is an opportunity to learn. Every successful person is not afraid to fail and fail constantly. Thomas Edison failed over 9000 times before inventing the light bulb. When asked about his failures, he responded that he didn’t fail. He just found 9000 ways not to create a light bulb. Again, PERSPECTIVE. The individuals who made the Baseball Hall of Fame failed 95 % of the time but managed to make it into the Hall of Fame. Their failure led them to their success.

Help children realize that failure is not a person but an event. It is an event that could lead to success if we learn and grow from the event.

“A person who hasn’t failed hasn’t tried anything. Reduce the fear of failure.”

Depression, anxiety, and suicide can be the result of creating unrealistic expectations about the world, as they can never reach the expectations that were set because they were not realistic. This is commonly seen when kids go to university because they cannot handle the world as they do not have coping mechanisms.

STORY: At camp one year, I had a parent upset because her son came home with a mosquito bite on his ankle. I had another parent mad at me because her child was outside all day at camp. It was outside, all-day camp? These should have been opportunities to build resilience and not have been a rescue mission.


Sarah was a girl with a craniofacial difference. She used her situation to teach people the importance of focusing on inner beauty.
Byron was a young man I met up in Richmond Hill. He was blind. He taught us that despite being blind, he had the tenacity to try everything.
Scott was a 7-year-old I met from Burlington. His dad was murdered when he was five years old. Scott taught us that he would use this event to help others through tough situations.


Our self-talk leads us to our destination. If we believe that we are dumb, we limit our potential. We repeat words like fat, loser, lazy, and ugly, which become self-fulling prophecies.

The more we repeat these negative statements, the more we reinforce our beliefs, which creates a false truth and directs and limits our lives.

THE ARM EXPERIMENT – A person will hold out their arm and resist having it pushed down. They will repeat positive statements like: “I am great. I am amazing.” I will try to push the arm down. It will not move. I will then ask the individual to repeat negative statements. The arm is pushed down. The goal is to reinforce the concept that our self-talk has a powerful effect on our resilience.


My birth mother was a 16-year-old girl from Aberdeen, Scotland. She had me out of wedlock, so she was shipped off to Dundee, Scotland, to give birth to me in a Salvation Army Hostel for Unwed Women. For the first six months of my life, I was given sustenance but not much affection or love. I was eventually adopted and brought to Canada. I was a timid, sensitive boy who wore his emotions on his sleeve. I was an easy target for a community bully. From the age of 8 to 18, I was victimized by bullies, physically and emotionally abused, and, on top of everything, had to deal with an inability to read and write. I was labelled with ADHD and a learning disability, which just compounded my lack of self-confidence. But here I stand, a confident, well-adjusted man. How did I recapture my self-esteem and gain the confidence I have today?


Understanding my ADHD and Learning Disability
Getting involved in clubs: Boy Scouts, Choirs, Marching Bands, Rock Bands
Surrounding myself with caring, positive people. Could you watch who your children are hanging out with? They will either have a positive or negative influence.
Gaining success in music, writing, and magic. Music saved my life in high school, where I gained all my self-esteem. I eventually joined a successful rock band that helped me gain confidence.
Changing my self-talk and focusing on what I could do, not what I could have done better at. (and there was a lot of that)

*****WHAT HELPS IMPROVE SELF ESTEEM IS CREATING “THE BALANCE” – Balancing the negative events with successes and accurate perceptions*****


Research shows that children with high self-esteem tend to have parents who show their children lots of love and acceptance. Children with low self-esteem tend to have parents who are judgmental and critical.

My parents were typical Scottish parents. They showed their love by providing for their family, giving us gifts at Christmas and on birthdays and instructing us on right and wrong. Our lives were void of phrases like “I love you,” hugs, or any form of physical affection. I interpreted criticism and a lack of overt affection displays as not worthy or significant, resulting in low self-esteem. Don’t be afraid of telling your children you love them. Don’t just assume that they know.

Praise your children for specific behaviours and be sincere. Sometimes, when children behave well, we don’t take the time to acknowledge the behaviour. We tend to notice inappropriate behaviour more often. Make an effort to reinforce positive behaviours and accomplishments with praise. Parents who are frequently critical and disapproving need to have children with low self-esteem. STORY: David was a boy who went to Kilbride Public School. He had a lot of behavioural issues. I worked with him over the summer. He went back to school as a new kid. His behaviour was incredible and noticed by the teachers. He reverted to his inappropriate behaviour in January. When I asked David why he would return to “the old David,” everyone was impressed with his changes. His response was, “Nobody told me.”

Treat your children with respect. Sometimes, parents talk to their children in ways they would never dream of talking to their friends. Some parents call their children names, compare them to their siblings and belittle them. This leads to poor self-esteem. Please remember how you speak to your child when you are angry. Parents should have the same expectations of how their children speak to them.

Be consistent. Family rules should be made clear to children, and they should be consistently reinforced. This is one-way children will learn which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. STORY: My brother knew that if my mother said “no” to one of his requests, he had to ask at least ten more times, and the answer would change to a “yes.” The rules became vague and inconsistent, creating a toxic environment.

“If you are persistent, you will get it. If you are consistent, you will keep it.”

Don’t demand perfection. Children need to know they have accepted warts and all. My mother constantly criticized me. This made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. In her mind, she was doing it out of love. In her mind, she was helping me. The unfortunate effect was that her constant criticism made me feel like I couldn’t make successful decisions independently. It can create a learned helplessness.

Listen to your children. One of the most powerful things you can do as a parent is listen to your child without lecturing them on life. I have often wondered why children respond so positively to me. I can connect to a group of hundreds of children in minutes. I get children excited about learning about bullying. I have had so much success with children because I actively listen and pay attention to them. They feel I am their ally. You Don’t need to advise your child all the time. Sometimes, if the child knows a lecture is attached to having a conversation with their parent, they decide not to talk. Listen, Listen and listen some more.

Keep your promises. When parents don’t keep their promises, it confuses children. It delivers a message that the parents don’t care about the child. Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Many hands go up when I ask children if they have ever had an adult break a promise. They feel the adult doesn’t care about them enough to keep their promise. The result is a punch to the self-esteem.

Please don’t allow your child to criticize themselves negatively. If you hear your child criticizing, take the opportunity to correct them. Negative self-statements, if repeated, can start to become a self-fulling prophecy. When I was struggling with reading, I called myself dumb. I repeated this statement daily. The more I repeated it, the more real it became. It could have become a word that would direct my entire life. Fortunately, I met a girl named Evelyn Bagchus, who helped me correct this negative self-statement. Help children realize mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow, as are the challenges of being unable to read. Empower them with positive self-statements and a positive attitude.

Spend time with your children. STORY: I met Craig at one of my Kids 4 Kids Program. He presented as a boy with a lot of behavioural issues. He was quite the attention seeker. I remember turning away from him for a few seconds only to be redirected to Craig, who was now wearing a garbage can lid on his head, walking around and beeping like a robot. As I got to know Craig, I realized this boy was striving for attention. He would seek attention from the secondary figures in his life, like himself or his teachers, but he was desperate for attention from his dad. I worked with his dad for a few weeks, teaching him various things he could do with Craig to reestablish the connection. Within weeks, Craig was a new boy. He no longer behaved inappropriately as he was now receiving the attention and love he sought. His self-esteem was on the mend. BOBBY STORY: When I first met Bobby, he introduced himself by punching me in the stomach and telling me to f” off. This was all for the benefit of the peers in the room. As I got to know Bobby, I could see this boy had a lot of potential. I invited him into a Kids 4 Kids program to assist me with the younger children. The kids loved him. He eventually realized he could get the attention he sought by being a positive role model instead of an attention seeker.

Could you give your child responsibilities? A basic need we all have is to feel like we are contributing and appreciated. Giving your child responsibilities delivers a message that you trust and value your child. You know they are capable. It will also allow you to praise them after they have completed the task. I have had children excited about making their bed and doing the dishes. They are excited because I do not present as “You have to do your share of the WORK around the house.” Rather, I tell them that by helping you develop your leadership sills, feel great about yourself, help others and build your confidence. It challenges you to be the best you can be.” It is all in how it is presented.

Encourage your child to take risks. Fail Forward. Instead of being overprotective and trying to prevent failure, parents should help their children cope with it positively when it happens. Parents who teach their children how to cope with failure and/or rejection when it occurs are giving their children a tool that will be useful throughout life. Parents should ensure their children learn not to take it personally when failure or rejection occurs. Parents can point out to their children that such things happen for many reasons, but not because they are not good people. If children learn to see rejection and/or failure as temporary and that it is not a reflection of the individuals they are, they are more likely not to let failure or rejection affect their self-esteem. From failure comes growth. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried anything.

Kids 4 Kids Leadership Program and Self-Esteem

Kids 4 Kids has survived 30 years because children want acknowledgment. They want to receive attention and feel important. These are the keys to building self-esteem.

We help children build resilience, tenacity, and leadership character as this will help them become confident and have healthy self-esteem.

Define Leadership
Respect, Responsibility, Initiative, Integrity, Trust
Anti-bullying strategies
Anger Management
Peer Pressure/Dares
Adjusting inaccurate perceptions and giving children strategies they can use to be successful

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