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Developing your child's self esteem

Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves, our "self-perceptions". Healthy self-esteem is a child’s armour against the challenges of the world. Children who have a    positive self-esteem feel good about themselves and seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and are generally optimistic. In contrast, children with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. They may think that they are no good or can’t do anything right. This makes them depressed, passive, or withdrawn.

Parents play a very important role in promoting healthy self-esteem in your child. Your involvement as a parent is the key to helping kids form accurate, healthy self-perceptions. This can be done by listening and understanding, praising and encouraging good behaviour and rewarding them. Children need to feel secure, loved and valued- this is the basis of self esteem and confidence.

Your child needs plenty of praise to build up her self-esteem and to enable her to believe she is good and capable person. To ensure that your child learns what good behavior is, you must be specific about what you are praising her for (for example you cleaned the table without being asked. Well done!). Show your pleasure physically as well as verbally- a cuddle or pat on the head can be much more powerful than words.

Kids with low self-esteem may not want to try new things, and may frequently speak negatively about themselves: "I'm stupid," "I'll never learn how to do this," or "What's the point? Nobody cares about me anyway." They may exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over. They tend to be overly critical of and easily disappointed in themselves. Kids with low self-esteem see temporary setbacks as permanent, intolerable conditions, and a sense of pessimism predominates.

Kids with healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with others. They're comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities as well as independent pursuits. When challenges arise, they can work towards finding solutions and voice discontent without belittling themselves or others. For example, rather than saying, "I'm an idiot," a child with healthy self-esteem says, "I don't understand this." They know their strengths and weaknesses, and accept them.

How Parents Can Help

How can a parent help to foster healthy self-esteem in a child? These tips can make a big difference:
  • Watch what you say. Kids are very sensitive to parents' words. Remember to praise your child not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. Reward effort and completion instead of outcome. Acknowledge effort, even if the result isn’t great.

  • Be a positive role model. If you're excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your child may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your child will have a great role model.

  • Identify and redirect your child's inaccurate beliefs. It's important for parents to identify kids' irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they're about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept.

  • Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will go a long way to boost your child's self-esteem. Give hugs and tell kids you're proud of them. Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Kids can tell whether something comes from the heart. A hug and words of encouragement, particularly when things go wrong will help your young one keep things in perspective.

  • Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like "You always work yourself up into such a frenzy!" will make kids feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, "You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn't yell at him or hit him." This acknowledges a child's feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time.

  • Create a safe, loving home environment. Kids who don't feel safe or are abused at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect kids' self-esteem. Deal with these issues sensitively but swiftly. And always remember to respect your kids.

  • Help kids become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both kids.

  • Focus on the behaviour and not the child. It’s the behaviour you don’t like, you still love the child. For example; instead of saying something like “I don’t like your attitude.” Say “I don’t like you speaking to me in that tone of voice.”

  • Praise good behaviour. Look for opportunities to positively comment on the things they are doing well. Take the time to notice. Most of the time we manage to notice the behaviour we don’t want while we take good behaviour for granted.

  • Learn from mistakes. When your child makes a mistake, help them learn from it by discussing what happened and what could happen next time.



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