We are reminded constantly these days of the importance that self-esteem plays in a child's development. Children's self-esteem influences their social behavior and learning. Children with low self-esteem are less likely to step out of their comfort zones to extend themselves and try new experiences. They tend to take fewer risks than those with healthy level of self-esteem.
Misbehaving children are generally discouraged children. Lacking confidence to belong through positive ways they find their place within their family and peer group through misbehavior. Quite simply if children have a healthy level of esteem and feel good about themselves they are more likely to make friends and succeed at pre-school and at school.
But what is self-esteem and how do children acquire it? Self-esteem refers to the image or picture of ourselves that each of us carries around in our heads. This image or picture is constructed through our experiences and is strongly influenced by the messages that others send. The way we interact with children on a daily basis influences the positive picture that they construct of themselves. Let them know through our language and our behavior that they are capable and worthwhile and they will begin to believe it. The messages we send to children influences they way they see themselves as well as our relationship with them.
For parents the essential question is: What type of self image are you helping your children to construct?
While children have countless experiences in settings outside their home and receive messages from many sources including their peers, parents have a huge influence on the way children see them. In fact, when children are very young their sense of self is linked to their parents so a parent's self-esteem is obviously important a determinant in a child's self-esteem.
Children with a healthy level of self-esteem generally:
- Feel worthwhile (and lovable)
- Believe that they are capable
- Extend themselves as learners
Following are some ideas that adults can use to promote self-esteem in children:
- Build on children's strengths. Point out to children their areas of expertise. This often difficult with young children but as they progress through primary school they have more options for success available.
- Give kids realistic responsibility. Develop self-help skills from an early age.
- Develop the courage to be imperfect. Let them know that mistakes are part of learning. Ask any golfer.
- Encourage sensible risk-taking. Help them to develop the attitude that anything is possible.
- Establish an achievement board or corner in your house or room
- Develop a strong language of encouragement that focuses on effort, improvement, and their contribution and displays your confidence in their ability to succeed.
- Stick positive affirmations around the house. Use them yourself.
- Tell children how you handled difficult situations in your life. This is extremely reaffirming for kids.
- Ask children's opinions on important family matters. It shows you value their input.
- Mirror back a positive self-image or picture.
- Self esteem comes from achieving success in high-risk areas so help them achieve in an area such as public speaking or drama.
- Look for small victories or achievements and celebrate them
- Provide them with opportunities to take risks and make mistakes.
- Remind kids that we only grow and improve when we take risks
- Help children set goals and stick to them.
- Write letters or notes of appreciation. Leave notes under the pillow, in lunch-boxes or on the computer in E-mail.
- Help kids accept responsibility for their own actions and their own fate.
- Give objective feedback but begin with a strength or positive
- Compare them only to themselves
- Teach them how to reframe problems or see a situation from a positive point of view.