CENTERVILLE -- Ariana McGee said helping others helps her with her own self-esteem and self-confidence. The 14-year-old Syracuse girl took a course from Ivy Girl Foundation, a program based in Centerville that helps girls with self-esteem and self-confidence.
"I learned that if I'm nicer and help more, other people will have a better day and it makes me feel good," said Ariana, who attends Syracuse Arts Academy, a charter school.
Her older sister, Camille McGee, 21, also took the course.
Having low self-esteem is something every girl and young woman goes through no matter how old they are, Camille said.
She said she already knew that service helps develop self-esteem but it was good to be reminded.
"Everyone is their own unique person and life is hard enough," said Camille, who works at Great Harvest in Layton and is saving money to attend Weber State University.
She said when she does acts of kindnesses or service for others she feels good, which carries over to other parts of her life.
Ariana and Camille's mother, Karen McGee, taught them about service.
McGee enrolled her daughters in the course, not because they lacked self-confidence or self-esteem, but to "help them be stronger people."
McGee said she knows when parents teach their children to do service it does improve self-esteem.
That's something Jessie Funk, director of the Ivy Girl Academy in Centerville, agrees with. She came up with the idea for the academy in the middle of the night almost two years ago.
"A very easy way to build self-esteem is to give service," Funk said.
Service does not solely equate to big projects such as going to a soup kitchen or gathering donations for a shelter, Funk said. Service can be as simple as making cookies for a neighbor, writing a thank-you note to a teacher or even helping a parent inside their home, she said.
Good relationships with others, like a parent, a sibling and fellow students, also means a person is on the road to good self-esteem, said Serianna Gregg, a licensed professional counselor with Davis Behavioral Health Inc.
"As a person gets older, they carry on healthy and successful relationships down the road," Gregg said.
Gregg said parents can help improve their child's self-esteem by giving effective praise for good behaviors, teaching children to make decisions by giving them choices and also letting children solve their own problems as much as possible.
Parents can model good relationships by actually listening to their children and not just expecting their children to listen to them.
"Kids need to know parents actually care about their feelings regardless what the issue is," Gregg said. "It doesn't mean parents have to agree with their children." Too many parents give the message that what they say is more important than what their child has to say. They think they can listen to their child while texting, watching television or surfing the Internet, she said.
"If parents want their kids to give them their full attention, they need to give their full attention to their kids," Gregg said. "We cannot do two things at the same time."
Learning to communicate and how to listen is part of Funk's program, which is currently designed for girls between the ages of 8 and 18, but she is hoping to expand it to include boys, as well as adults.
Funk, 26, is also aware of the mean games teenage girls play. She remembers what it was like to be the girl who was teased and then what it was like to be the girl who bullied others.
"Bullies have a lack of confidence, as do the ones who are bullied," Funk said.
Confidence and self-esteem also increase as people of all ages learn how to communicate with one other.
Funk advocates turning off the phone, walking away from computers and sitting down with family and friends to talk, not to text.
"Technology is depriving people of essential social skills, like listening," she said.
Funk said it is important to get down on eye-level with small children and look them in the eye when talking to them.
Building a child's self-esteem is important because the children "are our future," Funk said.
"They're our future mothers and the gift I want to give them is being confident in themselves and valuing themselves," Funk said.