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Background ? We cannot give someone self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from one's assessment of the extent to which one is lovable and capable. It comes from within the person, based on his or her decisions about life experiences. As youth leaders you can help build esteem in young people by providing opportunities for positive life experiences. This lesson looks at how individuals develop over time and includes affirmations we can give to others and ourselves to help strengthen our self-esteem.


References ? ? ? ? Brookhyser, Evelyn. 1990. "Developmental Stages and Affirmations Including Adult Recycling." Handout from Oregon Extension program "Developing the Positive Self." Clarke, Jean Illsley and Connie Dawson. 1989. Growing up Again. Harper & Row Publishers, San Francisco. Clarke, Jean Illsley. 1978. Self-esteem: A Family Affair. Harper & Row Publishers, San Francisco. Hart, Louise. "Stumbling Blocks to Self-Esteem." Family Resource Coalition Report, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1989, p. 10-11.

This unit prepared by: Janet H. Hiller Extension 4-H Youth Development Specialist Department of Human Development 323 Hulbert Hall Washington State University Pullman, WA 99164-6236



Audience: New and experienced leaders Group Size: 5-50 participants

Objectives: The participants will be able to: 1. Define and explain self-esteem and its importance in human development. Understand how developmental tasks are recycled and must be worked on many times throughout one's life. Use affirmations in their group, family, and for themselves.

Time: 1 1/2 hours Equipment: Flip chart, easel, marking pens, or overhead and Transparency 1. Handouts A, B, C, and 3 X 5 cards. Setting: Arrange chairs so that all participants will be able to see any visuals that will be used. Place markers, handouts and notes on the table.


2. 3.

TIME 1 min.

WHAT YOU DO OR SHOW Welcome! Today we are going to focus on selfesteem--what it is and how you can help youth strengthen their self-esteem. Following this session you will be able to better define self-esteem and why it is important in human development. You will understand better how developmental tasks are recycled and must be worked on many times throughout one's life. You will learn some affirmations that you can use with your group, your family, or yourself.


HINTS FOR TRAINERS Read background information and make copies of handouts prior to session. Have objectives on a transparency or written on a flip chart.

5-10 min.

Introduction of participants

But first let's get better acquainted. Ask participants to introduce themselves and share one positive experience that boosted their self-esteem. Example: Having their picture in the local newspaper for helping youth conduct a community service project. You might comment on the variety of positive experiences shared/that people gain self-esteem from many different experiences over a lifetime.

Introduce them and share one positive experience that boosted their selfesteem.

If the group is so large that the introduction time would take too long, divide them into groups of 8 to share within this group.


5-10 min.

Introduction of topic

Our session today focuses on ways to help others strengthen their self-esteem. It's built on the theme that anyone in a group or family can improve the quality of living offered to each other or themselves at any time. Self-esteem comes from one's assessment of the extent to which one is lovable and capable.

Self-esteem is developed through our responses to fate, positive and negative life experiences.

Our self-esteem is nourished by each person recognizing their own lovable-ness and capabilities and by other people recognizing those traits in an individual. Men and women tend to define esteem differently. Men work on accomplishments while women tend to work on relationships. Our culture tends to be biased toward accomplishments. In this session we will look at how individuals develop over time. We will learn some affirmations that we can give to others and ourselves to build our positive self. We cannot give someone self-esteem. It comes from within the person, based on his or her decisions about life experiences. There are three things that influence our self-esteem: 1. Fate 2. Positive life experiences 3. Negative life experiences Our self-esteem comes from the decisions we make about how to respond to these 3 things.

Listen, take notes.


Fate determines important items in our lives--whether we are born male or female, the race we belong to, position in family (first born, birth date, etc.) One also can't control accidents, death, or if one member of a family is particularly beautiful or talented. No one can change fate. How we react to fate and the positive and negative events in our lives determines our self-esteem. Ask participants to raise their hand to indicate if their experience was positive or negative in the following situations: - High school years - Last child going to first day of school - Sports - Clean house - Recycling - Television (Other situations you wish to add). We all make our own decisions based on how we each defined and experienced the life event. Our decisions about fate, life's positive and negative experiences, form our self-esteem. One tool to change communications is using affirmations. Affirmations are powerful, positive messages that define who we are and how we expect to be treated. These messages are verbal and nonverbal. 10 min. Affirmations are powerful, positive messages which define who we are and how we expect ACTIVITY 1: AFFIRMATIONS Be sure everyone has Handout A and four 3 X 5 cards. Have each person read all the affirmations and: 1. Select 2 to help you get Read the affirmations for yourself and those you would give to others. Participants could be invited to make up affirmations that are more appropriate for themselves and their neighbors than those provided

Raise their hand in response to questions asked by presenter.


to be treated.

what you want from life today. 2. Select 2 to give to the person on your right and 2 to give to the person on your left. Write the selected affirmations on the cards.

Select 2 that are meaningful for you today. Select 2 to give to the person on your right and 2 for the person on your left. Write these on 3 X 5 cards. Read the affirmations you selected for your neighbors and then give them the cards.

on Handout A.

3. Share affirmations: a. Read your own to yourself b. Take turns reading the affirmations to the person on either side of you and give them the affirmations after reading. 4. Ask people to read their six affirmations and share how they feel now. Negative messages can be used to build selfesteem in certain situations. Are there times when negative messages can build self-esteem? Can you give any examples? (Points to look for: how to improve behavior, ways to avoid future mistakes.) Messages about doing poorly can build self-esteem when they honor the other person, show that you care enough to set limits, and invite the person to be a winner. Properly delivered negative messages say: 1. I care about you 2. You are a worthwhile person 3. You can learn to do things better The three step process for giving negative messages is: 1. Don't do (that)__________. 2. Because________________.

Provide examples.


3. Do this instead__________. Example: "Don't cry because your photo didn't win first place. Let's read the comments and see how to improve your next photos." 10 min. With practice, anyone can learn to structure an esteem building negative message based on a threestep process. --friend placing a hot dish on a wooden table --family member throwing a coat on a chair --someone opening your mail --family member taking and wearing clothing without permission --milk in carton left on the table --mud tracked into the house --sewing scissors being used for paper projects --metal being used in the microwave --child throwing rocks --child biting another child Saying "stop that," "don't do that," or "not that way" does not invite positive self-esteem. In fact, any words that make a person feel incapable do not build selfesteem (dummy, air head, klutz, you'll never make it.) Remember that the key to a good negative message is stating the expected positive behavior. Beware of two messages that block positive selfesteem: "Plastic" and "Don't be" Plastic messages start out making you feel good but end up making you feel bad. "That looks good, considering you made it." "I like you no matter what anybody says." Can you think of others? Don't be messages imply that a person should not have been born or should cease to exist. "Are you here again today?" "If it weren't for you, I could be in Hawaii." "We planned on two children, now here is our Offer examples when presenter asks you to do so. Add your own examples for clarification and to make the lesson "yours." Find a partner and using the situation you are given, structure an esteem building negative message based on the three-step process. It may be more useful to participants if they use situations they suggest.

10 min.

Plastic and "Don't be" messages block positive selfesteem.


little mistake." Other examples? Children often interpret what they hear literally. "You dummy! You'll never make it," invites the child to fail. We may be carrying some of those messages with us from our childhood. Adults can always rework or recycle their own internal messages from their childhoods. Recycling is a process by which people re-experience earlier developmental stages in a more sophisticated manner at later ages. Strengthening selfesteem is a developmental process. Affirmations are important in all developmental stages. Recycling is a process where people reexperience earlier developmental stages in a more sophisticated manner at later ages. It doesn't mean that we regress to a child-like state. Our life experiences demand that we continually recreate or develop more skillful ways of doing old lifesupporting tasks. Besides our natural adult rhythms, parents are often triggered to recycle whatever stages their children are in. It's a normal, hopeful aspect of living or working with growing children.

Pass out Handout B "Developmental Stages and Affirmations Including Adult Recycling" and review with participants. (You might select the sections that are the most applicable to your group.) Being Stage starts from birth to 6 months, and continues all of our lives. Infants learn to trust, to call out and get needs met. When a child has greater needs than you can give to (colicky, sickly, etc.), it's important to say, "I love you and I want to care for you. I don't know what to do right now."

Refer to Handout B. Ask questions about areas you do not understand.

Skim over those areas of least interest to your participants and focus on those of most interest.


You may get someone to care for your child to give you a break from child care. Doing Stage starts from 6 months to 18 months and continues all of our lives. The child separates from your lap and moves out to explore the world. Build the support system you need to swap or buy child care so you can have some grown-up time away from your busy explorer. Thinking Stage starts from 18 months to 3 years and continues all of our lives. The child continues to explore and enjoy his environment and begins to explore new ways of relating to you and tests doing things his way. The child is preparing for independence and to be responsible for himself later on. Some parents need time away from these children who say no. Identity and Power starts at 3-6 years and continues all of our lives. The child is figuring out who he/she is in relation to other people and how to be powerful with them. It's time for parents and leaders to practice "I love who you are." This is separate from what you do, how you look, what you say, and how you smell. "You can be you." Structure starts at 6-12 years and continues all of our lives. Children are busy learning and practicing (physical, mental, social, emotional skills and spiritual values). He/she needs a variety of skill building situations, clear family rules (both negotiable and nonnegotiable). Enforce the non-negotiable ones in a matter-of-fact, non-shaming way. Avoid "you can't do that," "you must be interested in my interests." The hassling these kids do is part of their exploration of rules and what happens when they break them. You shouldn't take the hassling personally.


Identity, Sexuality, and Separation starts at 13 to 19 years and continues all of our lives. They have to learn to handle the complex emotions that accompany their hormonal/sexual changes as they continue to separate from their parents and move toward individuality and a place among grown-ups. Adolescents often switch from an unsure, dependent attitude to responsible, mature behavior with amazing rapidity. This time taxes the patience and flexibility of parents and leaders. Parents and leaders can't always know what mood their teens will be in. You can support teens' self-esteem by letting them know you are there for them. Interdependence occurs during the adult years. Selfesteem is important for everyone! It's never too late to incorporate affirming, unconditional live messages for our children, our friends, and us.

15 min.

Affirmations can help change behavior and result in strengthening self-esteem.

ACTIVITY 3: CHANGING BEHAVIOR Ask participants to think of a child (or adult) whose behavior you would like to see changed. Visualize the person. How does he/she look? What is he/she doing? Glance at the affirmations used through the age of the person. Pick out affirmations you wish this person would hear and believe. With a partner, share how that person's behavior will be different when he/she has incorporated the affirmations you selected.

Activity 3: Think of a child (or adult) whose behavior you would like to see changed. Visualize the person. Think about how he/she looks and is doing. Select some of the affirmations from Handout A that might be suitable for this person. Decide

If time is limited you may want to do either Activity 3 or Activity 4 with your group. Activity 3 would be useful with parents or youth leaders.


how the person's behavior would change when he/she has incorporated the affirmation you selected.

20 min.

With planning, adult leaders can help strengthen young people's self-esteem by using affirmations.

ACTIVITY 4: STRATEGIES Ask participants to form groups of 4 to discuss some specific strategies they might use with their 4-H members to help build the young people's self-esteem. Offer some examples from Handouts C and D. Have participants share some of their examples with the entire group. Pass out Handout C and D at the end of the exercise.

Activity 4: In groups of 4 discuss some strategies to use with young people in groups to help them strengthen their selfesteem.

Activity 4 would be useful with youth leaders.

2 min.

Giving affirmations can be beneficial to yourself and others. Practice being positive.

SUMMARY There are a couple rules about affirmations: 1. Don't give an affirmation to someone else at a moment when you don't feel and believe it. If you do, they may pick up the conflict in it and feel confused instead of affirmed. If you can't give some of these messages, do what you need to do for yourself (get help, rest, education, therapy, etc.) so that you can believe the messages and give them. 2. Do give yourself affirmations even when you think you don't believe them. You will be tapping into the healthy, loving part of yourself.

Take notes.


Give yourself and others positive rewards for being, positive rewards for doing well, and appropriate negative messages for doing poorly. Stop giving "plastics" or any kind of "don't be" messages to yourself or to others.

If participants want more information, provide the order form for them.

If a "plastic" or "don't be" message comes to you, don't accept them, don't believe them. Beware of the messages in your own head. Turn the volume up on the positives and down on the negatives. Love yourself, appreciate your accomplishments, accept your mistakes, and change them without beating on yourself. Find some other people who will swap that kind of healthy relationship with you. Provide affirmations for the young people that you work with so that the majority of their life experiences will be positive ones.

2-3 min.


Answer questions participants may have. Ask participants 4 questions: Upper left - What did you like best? Lower left - What did you like least? Upper right - What would you change? Lower right - What more do you want? Overall rating based on 1-10 scale with 10 being best.

Ask questions. Complete evaluation: fold an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet in quarters and answer questions.

Be sure to do a self-evaluation soon after your session and make notes of things you would change.




11 pages

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