Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem
Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic.
In contrast, kids with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. If given to self-critical thoughts such as ‘I'm no good’ or ‘I can't do anything right,’ they may become passive, withdrawn, or depressed. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response is ‘I can't.’
Here's how you can play important role in promoting healthy self-esteem in your child.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves, our ‘self-perceptions.’ How we define ourselves influences our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors and affects our emotional adjustment.
Patterns of self-esteem start very early in life. For example, a toddler who reaches a milestone experiences a sense of accomplishment that bolsters self-esteem. Learning to roll over after dozens of unsuccessful attempts teaches a baby a ‘can-do’ attitude.
The concept of success following persistence starts early. As kids try, fail, try again, fail again, and then finally succeed, they develop ideas about their own capabilities. At the same time, they're creating a self-concept based on interactions with other people. This is why parental involvement is key to helping kids form accurate, healthy self-perceptions.
Self-esteem also can be defined as feelings of capability combined with feelings of being loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities can also end up with low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when the right balance is reached.
Signs of Unhealthy and Healthy Self-Esteem
Self-esteem fluctuates as kids grow. It's frequently changed and fine-tuned, because it is affected by a child's experiences and new perceptions. So it helps to be aware of the signs of both healthy and unhealthy self-esteem.
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 toward 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. A sense of optimism prevails.
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