Healthy child development is important because it helps a child to cultivate healthy self-esteem. Their behavioral, social, and emotional health enables them to handle peer pressure, setbacks, and other life challenges.
Further, helping a child develop positive self-esteem is an important factor in their good mental health. A confident child has positive social behavior, which protects them when they experience negative situations.
They are keen to try something new and do their best. Further, they’re able to cope with mistakes and keep on trying even when they fail. Actually, kids with high self-esteem do better at home, at school, and with friends.
So then, let’s get started with how to build self-esteem in children.
What Causes Low Self-esteem in a Child?
Self-esteem, also known as self-respect or self-value, is central to your life. It shapes your decisions or behavior as well as how you see yourself.
Kids tend to have relatively high self-esteem. However, this level reduces at the onset of the tween years, and they start experiencing low self-esteem issues.
The following are causes for low self-esteem in kids.
Comparison: Children aged 6 to 11 years tend to compare themselves against their peers. They compare themselves with others in terms of performance, beauty, and dressing. Parents also contribute to low self-esteem when they compare their children and make them feel inferior. Telling a child that your sister is brighter, better, beautiful, or hardworking, whether intentional or innocently, diminishes their sense of individuality and affects them psychologically.
Performance Pressure: Teachers and parents tend to commend kids during their early and middle childhood. They praise both small and large efforts, poor and excellent performance. However, they change and expect more from the same kids when they become teens. Their efforts and performance start to matter even more.
Perceived Disapproval: Older children and tweens tend to notice adults’ disappointment, such as their teachers and parents. This might be real or perceived. They tend to ignore judgment from a teacher they don’t love or respect. However, low self-esteem sets in when the disapproval is from a trusted coach or beloved parent.
Lack of Parental Involvement/ Support: Children are affected by a lack of support or involvement by their parents. They lack the motivation to try new things when their parents don’t pay enough attention to what there are doing. In fact, they feel unwanted, forgotten, and unimportant. Self-esteem grows when they see their parents getting involved in whatever they’re doing.
Medical Problem: Kids get stressed and develop low self-esteem due to serious illness, chronic pain, or physical disability. Others are mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorder.
What Age Does Self-esteem Develop?
Self-esteem rises as children develop cognitively and socially between 4 and 11 years. They also tend to build a sense of independence then. The level tends to hold steady but not decline between 11 and 15. It starts to rise substantially up to age 30, then increases more gradually during middle adulthood, peaks at age 60, and remains stable up to age 70. Self-esteem tends to start declining modestly and then significantly after age 70.
Older citizens experience low self-esteem due to retirement widowhood, aging, socioeconomic status, health, or empty nest. They tend to lose social roles during this period which threatens their self-esteem.
How Can Parents Affect a Child’s Self-esteem?
Self-esteem is everything in a person’s life. Parents can foster positive self-esteem in their children; However, sometimes, they innocently say or do things that have a negative impact on a kid’s self-esteem. They forget kids are also humans and should be mindful of how they treat them.
The following are self-esteem-sapping parental behaviors
1. Focusing on Past Conflicts
Some parents tend to mention a conflict or problem months after resolving instead of giving a child a chance to start all over again with a clean slate. This bad habit teaches children to hold grudges for an extended period.
Kids want resolved issues to be forgotten or treated as part of the past because they are less likely to repeat the same mistake since they don’t want negative attention again.
2. Yelling and Grabbing Them
Yelling at a child, caning, or hitting them with an object lowers self-worth. In fact, such poor impulse control disempowers your kids. These actions are short-term fix that interferes with your child’s wellbeing.
So instead of yelling, grabbing, or hitting your children, invite them for a constructive conversation where you can discuss their behavior. This allows you to work through conflicts, solve problems and strengthen their self-esteem.
3. Being Sarcastic
Some parents love to speak with sarcasm. They do this by saying things they don’t mean while implying the opposite using your tone of voice. Sarcasm hurts children because it shames them and puts them down. Further, sarcasm impedes communication between you and your child.
4. Use of Guilt
Parents push the limits when they make their children feel guilty because of their actions, feelings, or thoughts. They use guilt-singing comments to control their children; however, this alienates them instead.
Children expect their parents to support and understand them. Parents can do that through a non-controlling, calm but firm approach. Kids are able to abandon bad habits or peer groups that are problematic when they sense parental support.
5. Criticizing Them
Telling your child that you’re disappointed in them affects your child negatively. Such a comment hinders them from trying new things to avoid making another mistake that can disappoint you. It also affects their moods and self-esteem because they associate failure and success with their character. So instead of focusing on a child, focus on the mistake
6. Overpraising Them
Usually, praise is meant to build confidence and self-esteem. However, it’s extremely important to learn to praise your child. For instance, praise your kid for the skills and efforts they employed to achieve a specific goal instead of their personal traits. This teaches them that hard work is vital because it helps them achieve their goal.
7. Completing Tasks for Them
Parents do things more efficiently and quickly than young children. However, allowing them to do some things for themselves fosters a sense of efficacy and independence. Allow them to do dishes or get dressed by themselves helps them feel more sufficient and capable. It helps them think for themselves, solve problems by themselves, learn to cope with setbacks, and try alternative options.
8. Neglecting Communication
Open communication in the family strengthens emotional bonds and creates a positive environment in the family. Parents who neglect communication lower their children’s self-esteem because it shows them that they’re not their priority; instead, work, electronic devices, or friends are.
So show your interest in what your kids are saying or doing, acknowledge their feelings, and ask questions to understand their opinions.
How Do You Fix Low Self-esteem in a Child?
Self-esteem is like a passport in your children’s life because it shapes their mental health and social happiness. It’s the key to successful adulthood. It is vital to raise a confident child because they grow up with healthy confidence and self-worth. They also have a realistic understanding of their weaknesses and strengths. Confident children enjoy solving problems.
People are exposed to positive and negative influences as they grow up. Parents who expose their children to positive influences build their self-esteem, which helps them work with negative influences.
Here is how you build your child’s self-esteem.
Identify and Commend Specific Improvements: When you tell your child to try harder, give specific suggestions on what they can do to attain the goal. Help them to develop silk and embrace the learning process. Before lavishing them with praise, help them learn that they will experience failure in the world, but if they struggle now, it will pay off in the future.
Allow Your Kids to Solve Problems on Their Own: Instead of running the show, serve as a guide. This will give your children the freedom to find a solution to their problems. It’s important to realize that you can’t protect your children from the world; instead, teach them the skills they need to defend themselves or how they can protect themselves when you’re not around. Feeling capable and able to handle things by themselves helps them develop genuine self-esteem.
Show Them Unconditional Love: Let your children know that you love. Instead of excessive praise, give them unconditional love because it makes them confident and bolsters their self-esteem. Further, putting conditions in everything exerts control on your children. Letting your children know that you love them no matter what happens helps them to be confident. So tell them what you love without them earning it. For instance, tell them you love their company. Also, allow them to accept their own imperfections and themselves. Tell them about your past challenges and how you found your way through them
Be their Positive Mirror: How your child sees herself and how she thinks others see her can build or break her self-esteem. For instance, preschoolers learn about themselves from their families, especially their parents. Therefore reflect a positive image to your child. Tell your kids that their desires and opinions matter to you and they are fun to be with. This will help them when you try to discipline them, especially when their behavior is unpleasant.
Be Realistic: Show your children that humans have down days and happy days. Instead of faking cheerfulness, let them see you sad. Allow them to see sensitivity toward him will boost theirs towards you and others. This will help them lift self-confidence and that of other people.
What is the Most Psychologically Damaging Thing You Can Say to a Child?
Avoid hurting words. Parents should be supportive and offer safety. It will be helpful to avoid the following words as a parent
- Leave me alone
- Why are you not like your sister or brother?
- Don’t cry
- I could do that when I was your age, so why can’t you?
- Do it because I said so
- I do everything for you
- You’re a liar