Nurturing the Development of Healthy Self Esteem in Children
By Marta A. Gea Franca
For parents it’s hard to see children making negative comments about themselves and avoiding engaging in activities because they don’t believe in themselves. Many times children give up because they feel insecurity about engaging in an activity thinking they can’t do it. It’s difficult for parents trying to motivate children and helping them to believe in themselves. This article will discuss self-esteem development and ways parents can assist the healthy development of self-esteem in their children.
Self-esteem can be defined as how individuals perceive and feel about themselves. Self-esteem is a result of the interaction between nature and nurture. Children’s biological strengths and weaknesses (nature) influence their developing self-esteem along with their interactions with family and the social environment (nurture). Children self-esteem is shaped not only by their perceptions and expectations, but also by the perceptions and expectations of significant people in their life. How children is thought of and treated by friends, parents, family members and teachers also impact their self-esteem.
Children’s levels of self-esteem are presented in their behavior and attitudes. When children feel good about themselves, these good feelings will be reflected in how they relate to friends, teachers, siblings, parents, and others. Children with healthy (high) self-esteem are more likely to be happy, to make and keep positive friends, and to work through difficult situations. They perceive challenging situations as opportunities to try something new. On the other hand, children with low self-esteem have a tendency to be associated with more negative outcomes. They feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, sad, or angry about themselves. They manifest their low self-esteem in many different ways and may not be aware that they don’t feel good about themselves. Some common signs are: whining, perfectionism, being self- critical, withdrawn, blaming others, constantly apologizing, feeling fearful of trying new things, unable to make decisions and over pleasing. They engage in negative and self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that contributes to their low sense of themselves.
Parents are not able to change their children’s biological make up contributing to the development of their children’s low self-esteem, however, parents influence and help their children to develop a healthy self-esteem. Here are some ways that parents can help their children develop healthy levels of self-esteem:
- Listen to, acknowledge and accept your child’s feelings.
- Treat your child with respect.
- Avoid being judgmental.
- Give your child responsibility, independence and freedom to make choices.
- Allow your child to experiment, pursue her/his own interests, to be creative or not.
- Don’t demand perfection from your children. Nobody is perfect!
- Praise your child effectively. Praise should focus on children’s effort and perseverance and not only on final result.
- Pay attention to your own behavior and attitudes.
It’s Important to remember that children’s level of self-esteem will change overtime. It’s common for children to present symptoms of low self-esteem during their developmental growth process. However, if children continue to present symptoms of low self-esteem which are causing impairment in their lives, parents should seek professional help. We at Treehouse Family Counseling Services are here to help. Please check our website www.tcservices.org or call us at 925-820-8447