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There’s no such thing as ‘too much’ self-esteem—so pour on the unconditional love, mama

We cannot see ourselves as too good, too capable or too valuable.

There’s no such thing as ‘too much’ self-esteem—so pour on the unconditional love, mama

What is self-esteem? It's the way we regard our self.


So high self-esteem means we see ourselves as good and capable, that we are secure in our value. Low self-esteem means we see ourselves as not good enough, that we are insecure about our own value.

All of us have intrinsic value as human beings, not because of what we accomplish, but merely because of who we are.

But who are we? Who we are can only be perceived by what we do, how we interact with our environment. And all humans find themselves tested by their environments, all of us have tasks to master throughout our lives, growth that is demanded of us, practice and training and hurdles and tests. That is what shapes who we are, what brings our selves into expression.

Every parent wants their children to love themselves, to be confident, happy people. But some parents worry that children can have self-esteem that is too high.

There is no such thing. We cannot see ourselves as too good, too capable, too valuable.

The worry these parents are expressing is that their child might have an overinflated view of his own abilities, or a conviction that he's more important than other people. But that's not self-esteem.

That's grandiosity, and it derives from insecurity. If you've heard that kids with high self-esteem act entitled, superior, narcissistic, or full of themselves, that's just not true. Any psychological measure of these traits is not measuring self-esteem, but grandiosity, which is the opposite of self esteem.

Low self-esteem can sometimes express itself in self-deprecating behavior, but more often expresses itself as arrogance, a need to believe that we are better than others.

This is a defense against the deep fear that we aren't good enough, so we must constantly measure ourselves against others and win. By contrast, people with high self-esteem are secure enough in their sense of value that they don't need to compare themselves to others or inflate their abilities: they are more than enough, just exactly as they are.

So how can you help your child develop high self-esteem? There are two components—the sense that you are good, and the sense that you are capable.

I'm using good in the sense that the child feels that she is of value, regardless of what she does, and regardless of whether she succeeds or fails. I'm using capable in the sense that the child feels capable of meeting his needs and achieving his own aspirations.

Let's dig more deeply into this.

Step 1: You are good

The core of self-esteem is "stable internal happiness," a phrase that was coined by Martha Heineman Pieper, the author of Smartlove. Stable internal happiness is the secure sense that one is good and capable and that the world is a good place, despite the inevitable wins and losses that life will present.

While some people have a natural tendency to better moods and more optimism than others, stable internal happiness can be fostered in any child with unconditional love. Just telling children we love them is not sufficient to develop healthy self-esteem. The child must feel that she's loved unconditionally.

What does that kind of parenting look like?

Parenting that communicates that this child is appreciated and adored, exactly as she is. She knows that she inspires your love just by being herself. She doesn't have to prove herself, work a bit harder, be a bit better behaved. It doesn't matter if she wins or loses, succeeds or fails.

Parenting that is responsive to this unique child's needs and emotions. Sound familiar? This is the same kind of parenting that fosters secure attachment, which is an overlapping concept that raises a child who feels worthy and safe. These parents stay connected even while the child becomes increasingly independent. They accept and affirm all of who the child is, including those messy, challenging, negative human feelings.

All parents encounter times when staying positive in the face of a tantrumming toddler, recalcitrant ten-year-old, or rude teenager can seem almost impossible, and we’re tempted to withdraw into anger. But giving a child the cold shoulder doesn’t teach her anything positive about how to build a relationship. Worse, it teaches her that your love is conditional on her acting a certain way. As always, when kids are at their least lovable is when they need our love the most.

Parenting that stays connected to the child while guiding him. Punishment always undermines self-esteem. Sure, kids need limits. No, he can't pee on the rug, run in the street, run around in the restaurant, call his mother a poopyface, hit his brother.

But setting those limits with empathy —"You're mad! And I won't let you hit."—helps kids learn to manage their emotions and therefore their behavior. That helps them see themselves as good and capable. Punishment, by comparison, does not help kids learn to manage their emotions, it just worsens the tangle of angry feelings they already can't control and makes them feel like bad people who can't even manage themselves, much less the world.

Parenting that gives lots of unconditional positive encouragement. Affirmation, encouragement, and acknowledgment are essential for children to feel seen, heard, respected, appreciated, and valued—all part of developing healthy self esteem.

This does not mean praising a child for traits or abilities she doesn't have, such as perfection, because she knows she's not perfect: praise for specific traits, as opposed to specific behavior, seems to undermine self esteem.

So, for instance, telling a child he's smart pressures him to always be smart, which is impossible (why doesn't he know what chartreuse is?), so it makes him insecure. By contrast, acknowledging that a child has worked hard and made progress toward his goal reinforces his sense that he is capable.

Kids who are lucky enough to experience unconditional love and acceptance develop stable internal happiness early, by 10 or 12.

Setbacks from the outside world—lost ball games, a flubbed test, even a family move that leaves friends behind—throw them for much briefer times than other kids, and they return quickly to their normal happy state. But that’s only true for a handful of lucky people. Many of us don’t reach this state until our twenties, others work our whole lives to get there. Your child, who is lucky enough to have a parent who thinks about these issues, probably already has a good start, regardless of his innate disposition.

The reason it matters to unconditionally love our kids and appreciate who they are is that it helps them to accept and appreciate themselves. In addition to conferring happiness and the ability to love others, that gives children the resilience to pursue their goals and meet their needs, which confers more happiness (and more self esteem). Which brings us to:

Step 2: You are capable

As a child grows, he needs to experience himself as capable of meeting his needs and successfully pursuing his goals. Self-esteem begins with unconditional love, which of course has nothing to do with accomplishment. It helps the child develop the stable internal happiness that will help him meet his needs and accomplish his goals.

Secondary self-esteem comes from the pride of knowing, deep inside, that we can take care of ourselves and meet our needs—that we have what it takes to bring our dreams into reality.

Self-esteem starts with feeling loved, because only kids who feel completely loved are able to tackle and master hard things. And self-esteem does require the person to feel they are capable of taking care of themselves and achieve their desires. And that, of course, means tackling things that are hard. Which means, as parents, encouraging our children to do some hard things.

But—and this is essential—this is about the child pursuing his own goals. ("Dad really supports me to work hard at my soccer because he knows it's important to me.") It isn't about our making the child work hard at goals that we've set. That shades into conditional love. ("Dad loves me more if I score a goal.")

So this doesn't mean pushing your child inappropriately, which we might call Tiger Mothering. It certainly doesn't mean rescuing or doing it for them, which we might call Helicoptering. It means paying attention, and giving your child targeted support to develop his own competence and his own feeling of being capable and powerful.

These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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