Developing self-esteem in young children
Most parents want their children to have a healthy sense of self-esteem. That desire can also be seen in education where schools include self-esteem among their goals. Many observers believe that low self-esteem lies at the bottom of many of our society’s problems.
But what is self esteem?
Self-esteem is how you view yourself and how you feel about yourself. Your thoughts about yourself can change with the situation. For example, you may feel good about yourself when you have completed your work but you may feel bad about yourself when you have left too much work to the last minute.
It is a lasting feeling that remains the same in different situations—from childhood to teenage years to adulthood. Race, height, childhood experiences, and background are just some factors that affect our self-esteem.
When parents and teachers of young children talk about the need for good self-esteem, they usually mean that children should have “good feelings” about themselves, and the extent to which one is accepted and valued by others who are important to him or her.
Recent research underscores the importance of the early childhood years as a critically vital period for the development of future mental health and self-esteem. It is early in life, for instance, when infants develop attachments to adults who are responsible for them that the foundations of self-esteem are laid. When adults readily respond to their cries and smiles, babies learn to feel loved and valued.
Children come to feel loved and accepted by being loved and accepted by people they look up to. And as young children learn to trust their parents and others who care for them, they gradually feel wanted, valued, and loved.
In preschool, teachers will notice that children’s self-esteem sometimes begin to break down as they go through their three-year old and four-year old years. As there are even greater demands in kindergarten and in elementary school (academic, physical, and social and still more, in middle school and high school), the breakdown of self-esteem can be overwhelming. As they continue to get older, children become increasingly sensitive to the judgments of their peers. Even children who may seem happy and confident could still be experiencing low self-esteem because they do not feel loved.
Although self-esteem has been studied for more than a hundred years, specialists and educators continue to debate its precise nature and development. Nevertheless, they generally agree that a child’s self-esteem is based on a positive relationship with parents, teachers and other adults who are important in a child’s life.
Parents and teachers, for instance, can foster that can-do attitude in their children or students with a “Wow!” or a “Good Job!” every time they accomplish a feat.
These positive comments form a child’s first concept of success, which ultimately leads to a healthy self-perception. By staying positive and being generous with praise, parents and teachers can help support their children’s self-esteem.
One vital point to make, however, is that a young child’s self-esteem is not likely to be strengthened from excessive praise or flattery. On the contrary, it may raise some doubts in children who can see through flattery and may even dismiss an adult who showers them with too much praise as a poor source of support, and one who is not very believable.
Excessive flattery and praise also tend to distract children from the topics they are interested in and may develop in them a habit of showing interest in a topic just to receive flattery.
Children of all ages require self-esteem to feel good about themselves, the world they live in, and the contributions they can make to society. And it is only when they feel comfortable with themselves and believe that their abilities have worth will children feel fulfilled.
Unfortunately, nearly every child will experience low self-esteem at some time. While this is a momentary experience, low self-esteem can feel like it will never go away, and if not properly addressed, it could have adverse effects on a child. Promoting self-esteem among children and teens is therefore, is so important to ensure that they will feel talented, happy and loved.
As all parents will agree, it takes time to nurture children. They require a lot of personal time with loved ones and with others who enjoy them. Parents and teachers certainly play an important role in strengthening children’s self-esteem by treating them respectfully, taking their views and opinions seriously, and expressing appreciation to them, and in the end, just allowing them to be glad to be themselves!