It is important that parents realize that developing self-esteem in children is an important part of raising them to become well-adjusted, confident adults. Self-esteem is not arrogance; self-esteem is not ego; self-esteem is one’s overall emotional evaluation of one’s own worth. Self-esteem encompasses emotions such as pride, shame, despair and triumph, and beliefs such as “I am worthy” and “I am competent.” it is imperative that parents foster a sense of good self-esteem in children.
Self-esteem is included in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as he believed that self-esteem is a basic human need or motivation, and that without it individuals will be unable to grow and attain self-actualization.
According to Maslow, there are two kinds of self-esteem:
1. The need for self-respect – also known as inner self-esteem; and
2. The need for respect from others – which encompasses recognition, acceptance, status, and appreciation, and is far more tenuous and easily lost than inner self-esteem
Individuals with a healthy self-esteem are able to assess themselves accurately, and can recognize their own strengths and weaknesses whilst still recognizing that they are worthy and worthwhile. Those who have poor self-esteem rely on what is happening at the present moment to determine their feelings about themselves, and need positive external reinforcement to counteract their own constant negative feelings about themselves.
Where Does Self-Esteem Come From?
Self-esteem evolves throughout life, because we develop our self-image through interactions with others and experiences that we go through. Experiences during one’s childhood are integral to developing self-esteem in children, be it negative or positive self-esteem. Our failures and successes and how we are treated by family members, peers, educators, coaches, religious leaders and others are what make up our self-esteem. It is for this reason that developing self-esteem in children in such an important duty of parenthood.
Experiences that will contribute to healthy self-esteem in children include:
- Recognition of successes
- Acknowledgment and acceptance of failures
- Being listened to and not treated with disdain
- Being addressed respectfully
Experiences that will contribute to negative self-esteem in children include:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Harsh criticism and being screamed at or told they are useless
- Being teased or ridiculed, called names and told they are worthless
- Being taught that failure is not an option; expected to be perfect in everything all the time
- Being told that a parent wishes they had never had children, that life would be so much easier without them
- Being ignored or treated like a nuisance
- Being negatively compared to siblings or peers
Developing self-esteem in children is important because children with low self-esteem will get very anxious and frustrated when faced with challenges that they perceive to be hard, as their mindset is that they are not good enough and they cannot do anything right so why bother. Children with low self-esteem will often become withdrawn and depressed, and may even become reclusive.
Children with a healthy self-esteem, on the other hand, know what their strengths and weaknesses are yet still feel good about themselves; they are far happier, love taking on challenges, are able to resist negative pressure more easily, smile more, and are generally more optimistic.
Self-esteem is developed throughout childhood, and the process of trying something, failing at it, trying again, possibly failing again and then succeeding on the third try is what develops self-esteem in children. A self-image is created by success and failures and how they are treated by those around us, so it is important that parents, caregivers, educators and other adults are involved in helping children to form accurate and healthy perceptions of themselves. This can be done by showing enjoyment in what your child attempts, encouragement when they fail, and congratulations when they succeed without focusing on one specific area.
The Faces Of Low Self-Esteem
It is not always easy to recognize whether your child has a self-esteem problem or not, so here are some easy-to-recognize faces of low or unhealthy self-esteem:
- The Victim: the child continually acts as though they are useless, helpless, and cannot cope and sits back and waits to be rescued. They will use indifference, be full of self-pity and will be fearful of taking responsibility for improving their life. They repeatedly look to others for assistance and guidance, never testing themselves, and this will lead to reliance on others throughout life, under-achievement and a lack of assertiveness.
- The Imposter: these individuals act as though they are successful and put on a brave face showing that they are successful, but in actuality they are terrified of failing and therefore don’t put themselves out there much. They live in constant fear of being “found out” and this constant stress and pressure can lead to many problems such as procrastination, perfectionism, burn-out, and sometimes even ardent competitiveness.
- The Rebel: is probably the most easily recognizable, although the constant anger, rebelliousness and disregard of the opinions of important or powerful individuals are often not recognized as being due to low self-esteem. The need to constantly affirm that the criticisms and judgments of others does not affect them often leads to them playing the blame-game, disregard for the law or any type of authority-figure, and getting into trouble.
What Are The Consequences Of Low Self-Esteem?
Developing self-esteem in children is crucial, as these are their formative years, and without a healthy self-esteem they will grow up to be adults who:
- are stressed, lonely, anxious and depressed
- cannot maintain long-lasting friendships
- cannot maintain good romantic relationships
- are seriously impaired when it comes to job performance and academic results
- will be increasingly vulnerable to the abuse of alcohol and drugs
- will be caught up in an ever downward spiral of negativity and self-destructive behavior
- may eventually see suicide as the only way out of their predicament
How To Develop Self-Esteem In Children
A healthy self-esteem is your children’s armor against the world, their passport to a lifetime of health, happiness and a world of adventure and open doors just waiting for them to walk through. Self-esteem in children is the key to success as an adult; the key to lasting friendships and both personal and business relationships.
In order to develop self-esteem in your children it is imperative that you have a healthy self esteem yourself. Having a healthy self-esteem does not mean being arrogant or narcissistic; it means having a realistic picture of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, accepting them both, celebrating the strengths and putting effort into improving the weaknesses. It is being the person that it is a delight to be with because you are confident, smiling and sociable, not the person who seems to leech energy from those with whom they socialize or do business.
Self-esteem in children is developed by parents and other adults being a positive influence in their lives during the formative years; exposing them to positive image-builders and teaching them how to deal with the negatives that can break down their self-image. This can be done in the following ways:
Improve your own self-confidence
In order to develop a positive self-image in children you need to heal yourself first if you do not have a positive self-image. This can be done by confronting any problems that may be in your past that could influence your parenting:
- List the things that bother you about your past such as how your own parents affected your feelings of self-worth
- List the positive influences that your parents or others in your past had on your self-image
- Practice the “Pass on the Best and Discard the Rest” school of thought. In other words, emulate the good influences on you and do not do the same negative things to your children
Mirror Positivity And Positively
The first self-image a child has is created by their parents’ reactions; do you reflect a positive image or a negative image to your children? Do you spend quality time with them? Do you reinforce the positive traits of their personalities? Do you heed their opinions and make sure that you listen to their desires and dreams, or are you always rushed, irritated and in too much of a hurry to pay attention?
Positive mirroring can help to develop a healthy self-image in children and can be done because:
- it helps children to think well of themselves
- they rely on you for guidance as to both good and bad behavioral patterns; every child knows that when they get “that look” they are misbehaving and had better stop if they want to feel that good feeling that your positive reflection gives them when they are good
- a good self-image can help even sensitive children bounce back from being scolded or failing at something far easier
Play With Your Child
Playing will go a long way towards developing healthy self esteem in children, as it says that you enjoy spending time with them, they are worth your time, and are valuable to you. Playing with your children should not be seen as a chore, but as something positive and important to their all-round wellbeing:
- spending time at play is making a major investment in your child’s behavior and in making them feel special
- playtime gives you the opportunity to learn a lot about your child
- letting the child initiate the activity will hold their attention much longer, will allow for more learning, and will increase their feeling of self-worth
- playing with your child will make them feel special because your attention is focused on them
- playing is also beneficial for you, as it allows you to relive your childhood and relax and forget about work or problems for a while
Address Your Child By Their Name
Addressing your child by name, together with making eye-contact with them will make them feel that they are special, and will also teach them the value of addressing others by name, as they will remember that feeling throughout their lives. Addressing one by name is important because:
- at the end of the day, the only thing that is really yours and will stay with you throughout your life is your name
- everyone feels special if someone they have never met or only met once or twice addresses them by their name
- it can prove to be very important in business
- children soon learn that when address casually by their name things are likely okay, but when the full name is used, including the middle and surname, there is trouble afoot
Set Your Child Up To Be A Success
Helping to develop positive self-esteem in children includes helping them to acquire skills, develop talents and instill discipline. Children do not always recognize their own abilities, so it is up to parents to recognize these hidden talents and encourage the child without pushing them into something. Encouragement is a great confidence builder without filling their heads with unrealistic expectations.
Make sure your child knows that their value is because of who they are and not because of what they can or cannot do. To do this you need to give them the same attention, eye-contact and love whether they did well or not. Do not try to make your child into a mini-me; just because you loved and excelled in sports does not mean that they must. Let them find their own talents in which they can shine.
Children learn responsibility by having chores or jobs. Self esteem in children is developed by helping with household duties; it channels their energy into something positive and helps to develop self-confidence. Delegate age-appropriate tasks or responsibilities such as making the beds, cleaning the bath, sorting laundry, rinsing dishes, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, to cooking the family meal once a week.
Tell them you are delegating a special job to them; this will make them feel special and want to do it to the best of their ability, which will create great pride and self esteem. Make some of the tasks fun tasks, and create job lists and let them add jobs to the list that they would like to do, like washing the car or caring for the vegetable patch.
You can do many things to develop self esteem in children, and once you have done this you will see your toddlers bloom in to confident children who will one day be confident adults.