Focus on character building to boost kids' self-esteem

Parents can build their children's self-esteem by developing their character instead of changing their looks.

It is concerning that children as young as 12 are undergoing plastic surgery because they lack self-confidence in their appearance (Just 12, and she had nose job, liposuction and eyelid surgery; May 13).

This could be because of the media's portrayal of an attractive body image and overemphasising things like appearance at the expense of good character. As a result, many teenagers struggle with self-esteem as they enter puberty when they find themselves falling short of these "standards".

However, undergoing plastic surgery will help teens with these struggles only in the short term.

If they are motivated by the desire to look better because they do not feel good enough, they may never be truly happy, as there will always be someone who is better looking.

This may result in an endless cycle of cosmetic surgery to keep up with what is fashionable or popular. The teen will likely continue to struggle with low self-esteem in a constant pursuit to look better.

We agree that parents play a key role in helping their children manage unrealistic expectations of their appearances.

As an important first step, parents have to first be a positive role model in demonstrating to their children that good character development is more important than good looks.

This gives parents the credibility to focus on building their children's character and to talk to them about living out their family values.

One good way to do this is to intentionally acknowledge and appreciate children's strengths and what they bring to the family, as well as to be generous in commenting on and complimenting their positive traits.

Parents are the best people to remind their children that looks are temporal, and what might seem "cool" today may not be so tomorrow.

In the long term, it is a person's character and strengths that truly matter in life to the people who care about them.

Sarah Chua (Ms)

Parenting Specialist

Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2018, with the headline 'Focus on character building to boost kids' self-esteem'. Print Edition | Subscribe