Building self esteem in children is not difficult but it does require some sustained effort. Our levels of self-esteem have likely changed considerably over the span of our lives. This is because self-esteem is in part the result of our experiences and our assessments of our reactions to those experiences. In children, sometime all the indicators of healthy self-esteem are present at a young age but over time this can change as they start to experience unpleasant or difficult situations in life. A very young child may show signs of being very happy and confident. As parents, we sometimes have a tendency to assume that it is just a built in part of his or her personality and it will always be that way. Unfortunately, a few years later, the same child may exhibit signs of low self-esteem.
Self-esteem is a moving target in our children. It is important that we pay close attention and spot the signs of low self-esteem early. We must take a proactive approach to maintaining the emotional health of our children so that they can develop into happy, well-adjusted and confident adults.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem
Children who have low self-esteem may exhibit symptoms that mirror depression. They may include melancholy demeanor, reluctance to socialize and a lack of interest. When children with low self-esteem do not get their way, they often behave as if it is the end of the world rather than taking it in stride and moving on. When a child has a generally healthy and contended view of his or her life, minor setbacks will not be too difficult to get past. On the other hand, when a child with low self-esteem misses one of the few things that provide gratification, it is nearly intolerable.
Kids with low self-esteem are prone to give up easily or even avoid challenges all together. They may criticize themselves and practice negative self-talk. This is generally not something that children do. If your child speaks poorly of him or herself, there may be a need for concern.
Signs of healthy self-esteem
Children with healthy levels of self-esteem are generally more social. They want to interact with other children. They show enthusiasm about doing anything that is out of the ordinary and want to be involved in everything that is going on. Healthy self-esteem allows children to have a general contentedness about them. They will naturally fall into a routine that includes enjoyment of some kind. They laugh, play, watch TV, ask many questions and act silly.
When faced with a challenge, they simply admit that the task is difficult rather than giving up completely or putting himself or herself down. It is rare for a child with healthy self-esteem to show signs of despair. Children, by nature, are hopeful and they look forward to positive enjoyable events. They are optimistic.
As parents, it is important to get involved
Building self-esteem in children is not complicated but it takes work and patience. Whether or not you notice signs of low self-esteem, these practices will help you to create a positive environment and either protect or build your child’s self-esteem.
- Get them involved. This applies to many different scenarios. Let them participate in things that you do around the house. Take them with you to run errands. Play games with them. Get them involved in social events like sports or other recreation.
- Make sure activities are positive and constructive. Limit your child’s exposure to things that you are unable to effectively monitor like the internet and cable TV. There are many concepts that are not intended for young brains. Children will not understand things the way adults do.
- Ensure that the home environment is a secure and comfortable place. If the home is a place where the child feels uneasy or afraid, this anxiety will take its toll on the child over time and manifest some serious problems. Children who live in abusive household face many problems that are more complex later on as a result. Show them love and help them to feel safe at home.
- Praise your child often. You do not have to tell them that they are AWESOME every day and you do not want to mislead them into thinking that they are better than everyone else is but you certainly need to praise them when they accomplish something or act in such a way that deserves merit.
- Do not wait for a reason to show them affection. They need it. Anytime you think about it; do it. Simply stop them as they walk past you to get to their video games, pick them up, and hug them.
- Correct their misconceptions. Sometimes children believe things that are irrational and possibly unhealthy. A child may ask why his face looks weird compared to other kids. He probably got that from something another child said. Assure him that this is completely incorrect and that he looks just as normal as everyone else. Work to mold the ideas that your child forms about himself.
- Lead by Example. Show your child the kind of person that you want him or her to become. The old saying “do as I say and not as I do,” is funny on sitcoms but in real life it does not set a good example. It says do what I say when I am watching and when I am not around, do as I do or do as you wish.
In some cases, a child’s self-esteem problem may be beyond the scope of these practices. If you feel that the problem is serious and requires more immediate or more professional assistance, it is wise to seek professional assistance. There are skilled professional counselors that specialize in building self-esteem in children. They are adept in helping children develop and maintain healthy self-esteem.
It is up to you to determine the best route to take but either way, the suggestions above will help you provide environment where your child’s self-esteem can flourish.
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