A child can lose self-worth in a thousand ways.

Intelligence appears to be the second most critical attribute in evaluating the worth of a child, second only to beauty in its importance.

These two qualities are not merely desirable features that parents want their children to possess; they rank at the very top of our value system, above every imaginable alternative.

When these characteristics are missing in children, parents experience the agony, guilt and disappointment of having produced an inferior child; a creation perhaps with the same intolerable flaw they have despised in themselves.

When the birth of a firstborn is imminent, parents pray for a normal or average baby. But from that moment, average is not good enough. Shortly after examining their baby’s eyes, nose and related appendages for imperfections, most new parents begin to look for the signs of a budding genius. And they seem to find them.

“He said ‘Mama’, six weeks before the average child; this child is brilliant.”

They give her credit for smiling at five days, when in reality the child was grimacing from a severe gas pain.

Then comes the terrible twos – when Kevin knows the word “No!” better than others. He is impossible to handle, but parents are proud that he is an independent thinker and leader.

As life progresses, mom and dad start having depressing thoughts of Kevin’s genius – that he may just be normal. When they go for their first parent meeting, their reputation as “good parents” is on the line. They may glance around the classroom to see evidence of Kevin’s work. And there it may be close to the bottom of the wall, very near the floor. They blush at the unbelievably sloppy mess of artwork.

Throughout the formative years of childhood, parents give their child the same message: “We are counting on you to stand out, to be a maths and physics genius – a doctor!! Now don’t disappoint us.”

However, the reality is that exceptional children are that – exceptions, few and far between.

The average child is “average”, with needs to be loved and accepted. Without that acceptance, the stage is set for unrealistic pressure and disappointment.

And school is a dangerous place for children with fragile egos. For the slow child, school is unintentionally programmed to dissemble self-confidence, bit by bit until nothing remains but broken pieces.

Ms Singh announces a maths contest and the popular Irene and Mervin are chosen as captains. Kevin slumps into his chair – “please someone choose me!”

The captains go on choosing until there is no one left except Kevin. Irene says, “You take him!” and Mervin says, “No! You take him”. The teacher instructs Irene to take Kevin. And sure enough who causes the team to lose? Who wishes to curl up and die?

If you are to understand your children – their feelings and behaviour – then you must sharpen your memories of your own childhood.

Can you recall the agonising moments when you felt incredibly stupid as a child? Can you feel, even today, the rush of hot blood to your ears and cheeks when you messed up at netball or with a ridiculous answer to the teacher’s question?

Every child experiences uncomfortable moments like these, but alas, some youngsters live with disgrace every day of their lives. The child with less than average ability is often predestined for this despair.

Other issues that can affect a child’s confidence:

* Parents have a role to preserve or damage the self-worth of children. Their manner either conveys respect and love or disappointment and lack of interest.

* Older siblings can crush the confidence of a child. The little one cannot fight as well. And if their words are perpetually negative a child can feel incapable.

* Early social blunders and mistakes can be painful and hindering.

* Financial hardship. Children can be picked on for their clothes and can be compared to others. It is possible to feel deprived even when you are rich.

* Illness – children can feel incapable even if they have a condition of asthma.

* A child who has been raised in a protected environment may not have adequate social skills.

* Embarrassing family characteristics like alcoholism, can produce feelings of inferiority in a child.

A child is a creation of God, who has been given an immortal soul. Yet most parents demand a perfect child who could become a personal credit to them. How then does a child work on his own self-worth and identity? It’s time for a reality check. You need to start building a sense of self worth in a child before it’s too late! - The Post