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As a parent you may wonder how your child is doing. Self esteem is one of those important things we look at that these days when determining the healthy functioning and well-being of a child. With small children how can we understand what our children need to develop healthy self esteem? On this page you can find information about the following:
- Causes of low self esteem in younger children (0-6 years old)
- Development of healthy self esteem
- Warning signs
- What you can do to help your child
Even more than ever I believe that the importance of teaching life skills to young people should not be ignored. One of the most important of these skills is self esteem. Everyone needs it, but, as young people are often unsure of the world they are discovering daily, it is the duty of all parents to help support the promotion of healthy self image and confidence in the youth of today.
Education has ignored the need for these life skills for a long time. This does not mean that parents should forget that ultimately it is the duty of the mother or father to provide a son or daughter with the best weapon they could possible have to face all that life will throw at them. Self esteem can be taught!
Research shows that high self esteem can help with positive focus and happiness. If a child is happy and can concentrate positively he or she is much more likely to be more successful at school and in relationships. On the other hand low self esteem can lead to depression and all the problems that may bring.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health suicide was the third highest cause of death of young people aged 15 to 24. That statistic comes from 2007 but the figure is growing. Depression is a big cause of this and low self esteem is therefore something parents should be aware of in their children. You as a parent can do so much to help your child and I’d like to give you a number of tips for things that you can do to help your child be more confident.
The role of the parent is very important in any child’s life so you should start early to foster healthy self image in your child.
Causes of Low Self Esteem in Children
Factors affecting child self esteem:
- How much the child feels wanted, appreciated and loved
- How your child sees himself, often built from what parents and those close say
- His or her sense of achievement
- How the child relates to others
There are a number of factors which may affect self esteem of children (“Family Front and Centre: A Support Resource Promoting Healthy Child Development”, 2004), the most important ones being:
The family environment is very important to a child. Ideally a loving and secure environment with parents who understand and supply a child’s emotional needs such as love, encouragement, sympathy and physical needs such as food, clothing and a safe place to live will help the child most.
Environmental factors which can have a negative impact on a child include divorce, abuse and death within the family. Basically, stressful events which cause sudden change hold the potential for negative affects while stability and security is positive.
Parents and those in the family who have contact with the child are so important to the development of a child’s well-being. A major part of anyone’s self esteem comes from trusting others and feeling valued and deserving of love, this is something that is experienced and learnt in childhood and then may shape adult life. If parents or others say or do anything to hurt the child either physically or mentally this may cause the child to feel worthless and may destroy the trust he/ she has in others. Neglect and abuse are the most extreme examples of this and can cause life long problems in some cases.
Some children have sensitive natures and they are particularly dependent on those looking after them for emotional and psychological support. Anybody looking after a sensitive child needs to take extra care when dealing with this kind of personality. Sensitive and over-dependent children are hurt deeply if they feel those looking after them are dissappointed in them. They may feel worthless and may learn that how they feel depends on what others think and their main priority can become to please others. Perfectionism is a characteristic which can develop from the need to please others and this is damaging to one’s self esteem.
Development of Self Esteem
The development of self esteem begins in the baby and continues through childhood. It should be obvious that parents and those looking after the baby play an important part in this. Also a child learns from comments others make and begins to value him/ herself (Searcy, 2007). For example, if a child is told he is clever he begins to believe it is true. On the other hand, if a child is told he is bad or useless then he may believe that and his self worth will suffer. If this continues it can affect the child into adolescence and even adulthood.
As above, even from a young age, children can begin to form ideas about their appearance. This often comes from what others tell them. A child may believe she is fat, simply because of a comment someone made without thinking.
Signs of Low Self Esteem In Children
- Problems making friends or social problems with other children
- Bad behaviour including anger, tantrums etc.
- Bullying others
- Other agressive behaviour
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10560-006-0070-9/fulltext.html – importance of family, aural self esteem from significant others, children learn value of items and themselves from what they are told, comments.
|“Keep on doing the good work that you are doing because really you are saving lives.”Joy|
Your child’s self esteem can be increased by you:
- Appreciating your child
- Telling your child that you love them
- Spending time with your child
- Encouraging your child to make choices
- Fostering independence in your children
- Giving genuine importance to your child’s opinion and listening
- Taking the time to explain reasons
- Feeding your child with positive encouragement
- Encouraging your child to try new and challenging activities
Appreciating your child
A child’s self esteem will suffer if he or she is not appreciated. Children know if you are sincere or not. If you spend time together you must enjoy or there is no point. Show appreciation at all times. Tell your child you love him or her – this is appreciation. Thanking a child when he does something good is reward enough. Children like to please. Here are some ideas how to appreciate your child more.
Esteem is boosted with your encouragement. Encourage decision-making, this will lead to a feeling of confidence and independence.
Self esteem comes from what you think about yourself, praise is external. I do not agree entirely with some who say praise creates kids addicted to it and then needing praise to feel good. Encouragement is better than praise. I was often told “could do better” and this lead me to feel no matter what I did it would not be good enough to please others.
Children’s self esteem will be higher if you treat him or her seriously and with respect. Explain to the child everything and treat him as an intelligent individual able to understand and reach conclusions. You want to be treated like this and children are no different. A child who is belittled, patronized or put down will suffer lack of confidence. Mutual respect will foster trust and confidence. Help your child to build self esteem.
Dealing with failure
If the child fails he must not feel a failure. Teach a child failure doesn’t exist only temporary setbacks on the road to success. Never tell a child he has failed, let you down or cannot succeed. Be a mentor and help the child to believe in his or her ability to succeed no matter how long it takes!
Low self-esteem is sometimes cited as an underlying reason for young people to turn to teen alcohol abuse.
Recommended books – from Amazon.com
#2 I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem
by Jamie Lee Curtis,
Tips to help you boost your child’s self esteem and confidence:
- Always try to make positive comments – as a parent you have great influence over your child. A young child needs to hear the approving words and this will make him or her feel appreciated and wanted. Life is made so much harder if a child has been brought up with negativity. Whenever your child does something well, congratulate him/ her.
- Spend time together. You are busy, I know but to help your child you need to spend quality time together. The fact of doing this not only helps you to build a better relationship, it also shows that they matter enough for you to give one of your most precious gifts – your time.
- Listen rather than talk. Your young child needs to express him/ herself and you should listen and try to understand. By doing this you are teaching that communication means being open to the ideas of others. You are giving your child time to form his or her ideas and discuss. You are showing that these ideas are important to you and will not be ignored.
- Reward effort and don’t talk about success or failure. The important thing to teach your child is that effort and trying is so important. Always notice and comment on effort in a positive way. An important lesson is that hard work pays in the end. Success is the end result of hard work and the inevitable mistakes that we must learn from on the road to success.
- Focus on the positive. It is so important to show that a positive attitude leads to happiness and success. Wherever positive draw your child’s attention to the good in any situation so that he/ she realises there is always a choice how to see events that happen to us. Being positive will create a healthy family atmosphere. This kind of atmosphere creates security and if a child learns how to see the positive even in the most difficult situations, this will make the world a much better place to live. This will breed confidence.
- Discuss mistakes that your child makes. Help him/ her to see them as stepping stones to learning. Always discuss what lessons can be learnt from the experience of making a mistake and ensure that you discuss the difference between a mistake and failure. Let your child discuss with you how to avoid the mistake again and how he can approach the challenge in a different way next time. The most important thing to teach is that no-one succeeds without making mistakes and that the fear of making a mistake should never prevent us from trying. Young people have a natural approach to life which involves jumping in and learning by making mistakes so encourage your child to use this but discuss the need to think about possible consequences of our actions.
- Focus on the behaviour, not your child – when your child/ teenager misbehaves it is very easy to get angry and say things that you later regret. To build self esteem your words should help your child to understand what they have done wrong and why it is wrong. Children often feel bad about themselves because their parents shout at them and punish them for not doing what they say. If this continues the child begins to believe what he is told – “you are bad or you cannot be trusted”. Focusing on the behaviour means that you explain what the problem is and allow your child to see that bad behaviour is a result of a bad decision and that the behaving badly does not make you a bad person.
- No nagging – this serves no purpose but as parents we often do this without thinking. Nagging is the opposite of listening and discussing. By nagging you create bad feelings. Nagging also develops into negative comments and we have already said that in order to create self esteem in your child you should focus on the positive.
- Take an interest – as one of the most important people in your child’s life the fact you are interested in what matters to your child shows that you love and respect him or her. Showing an interest also means taking the time to encourage and comment positively on activities that interest your child. You are also giving your child the opportunity to express him/ herself and discuss the things that are important to him or her. You are also teaching your child how to take an interest in others and this will help them to make friends and genuinely make better relationships.
- Cuddle and encourage – showing affection is a healthy way to teach your child that they are special in your eyes and that you love them. It is very important for parents to show affection so that the child may not only feel loved, but by experiencing this they will be able to show affection to others too. Support from a parent should give confidence and help your child understand that others understand and want to help. A child who does not experience encouragement and affection may grow up to be a lonely person who struggles with relationships.
- Show your own mistakes and how you cope. Parents should teach by example and so when a child sees that even his parents can make mistakes he or she understands that mistakes are natural and not something to be ashamed of. Equally, it is important for the parent to show how to cope with mistakes in a constructive way. Something only becomes a mistake when you accept it as such and then your reaction to it is important. Mistakes can be seen as positive steps towards doing something right. We move closer towards success when we discover which ways do not work. Confidence grows when you are not afraid of making mistakes. When your child learns that mistakes can be corrected and can provide valuable lessons then this will create a much more positive attitude and increased self esteem and confidence.
- Praise good behaviour – often parents focus on what is wrong and this means they concentrate on bad behaviour. Try focusing on what is good. Concentrate on good behaviour and reward that and you’ll see a massively positive effect on your child.
- Encourage communication and discussion. When you do this you are showing that you value the viewpoint and ideas of your young child. This will be a huge confidence boost for them and will encourage them to be open and expressive later on in life. Modern society encourages discussion, cooperation and self expression and this can only be good for your child.
- Allow your child to learn consequences themselves. A parent usually wants to help a child avoid mistakes but you have learnt valuable lessons from making these mistakes. You cannot, unfortunately, short cut this. Your child WILL make mistakes and learn the hard way. To teach responsibility, which is a big factor in self esteem, you should allow your child to learn that actions have consequences and even though it is tempting you should not protect your child from those consequences. If you over protect your child they will not learn to be responsible for their choices and they will not be prepared for the world which awaits them once they leave home. Spoiling a child has no place in building self esteem, in fact, it will create the opposite.
I hope the above tips are helpful and I hope you understand how important it is to say and do the right things to create an environment and a relationship that will turn a child into a young person and eventually an adult who has the gift of self esteem and confidence. Good luck!
Learn more about how to help your child develop self-esteem (American Academy of Pediatrics 2015)
Many of the tips above can be applied to adults as well and I would recommend that if you would like to discover much more about how you can develop your own self esteem so you become a better parent then do click on the offer below:
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Searcy (2007). Placing the Horse in Front of the Wagon: Toward a Conceptual Understanding of the Development of Self-Esteem in Children and Adolescents. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp 121-131
http://www.healthofchildren.com/S/Self-Esteem.html – very detailed for diff age groups
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/kids-height-short-your-family-health/story?id=9844075 – height