I Love Me!
Self-compassion is such an important quality to nurture in a young child, and yet it is woefully under-emphasized when it comes to early childhood development and education. Often lumped together with “self esteem”, the two couldn’t be more distinct.
We’ve been conditioned to see self-compassion as narcissistic, undeserved and even shameful. However, according to Doc Childre, a lead researcher at the HeartMath Institute:
“to have self-compassion is not an act of selfishness; it’s an act of intelligence, heart intelligence… self-compassion nurtures us with a non-judgemental acceptance and a deeper understanding of our self… compassionate self-love is not ego infatuation;
it’s an intelligent and regenerative self-maintenance practice.”1
Children with self-compassion don’t have to feel “better than” in order to feel good about themselves. They also have a greater capacity for honest self-evaluation because personal failings or “mistakes” can be acknowledged with kindness rather than shame and self-blame. Perhaps most critical, self-compassion offers a powerful tool for self-soothing, for it advocates counseling oneself as “your own best-friend.” Research indicates that self-compassion, as opposed to self-esteem, leads to greater emotional resilience, more caring behavior, more accurate self-evaluation, less narcissism and less reactive anger… all of which are associated with a sound social-emotional framework! 2
Self-esteem, on the other hand, by focusing on performance and perceptions of success and failure, is a difficult road to navigate, especially with young hearts and minds. Recent research demonstrates that efforts to build self-esteem in children can actually lead to greater narcissism and self-absorption. 3 Placing a premium on high self-esteem can encourage children to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings in an effort to preserve and protect their self-concept. Taken to the extreme, it can also cause children to put others down, and bully them, in order to feel better about themselves.
So how do we best support children in developing self-compassion and a positive self-concept?
We practice it * We highlight it * We encourage it * We celebrate it
Some wonderful resources for developing your own self compassion practice include:
Germer, Christopher (2009) The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Guilford Press.
Hamilton, David R. (2015) The Science of Self-Love, Hay House, UK.
Neff, Kristin (2015). Self-Compassion, William Morrow Paperbacks.
Childre, Doc (2016). Heart Intelligence, Waterfront Press, pp. 238-239.
Neff, Kristin, http://self-compassion.org/what-self-compassion-is-not-2/
Neff, Kristin, Why Self compassion Trumps Self-Esteem, from Greater Good 5/27/11.
The Breadcrumbs BLOG is devoted to offering parents, caregivers and educators tools to help young children develop a strong social-emotional framework. Each week we offer tips and suggestions, rooted in Montessori philosophy and backed by the latest research, to help young children realize their “highest potentialities”.