Building a Child’s Self-Esteem: A Guide for Parents

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Self-esteem and a positive self-image are essential for a child’s healthy development. They influence how children feel about themselves, interact with others, and approach challenges.

In her book “Your Child’s Self-Esteem,” celebrated author Dorothy Briggs described self-esteem as “the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being.”

A child’s self-esteem begins developing at a very early age. It is shaped by positive interactions and words of affirmation from those around them, especially their parents.

The Importance of Self-Esteem

Madelyn Swift, author and speaker on discipline, family dynamics, and personal communication, said that our emotional health is built on the foundation of self-esteem

When we like ourselves and feel capable, we are better able to cope with stress, manage our emotions, and build healthy relationships. Likewise, it’s the same for children.

Self-esteem gives children the confidence to try new things. When children believe in themselves, they’re more likely to take risks and step outside their comfort zone. This can lead to new experiences, learning, and growth.

Self-esteem also helps children bounce back from failure. When children make mistakes, they don’t have to take it personally. They know that everyone makes mistakes and that they can learn from them. 

Finally, self-esteem helps children face challenges rather than avoid them. When a child believes in themselves, they know that they can handle whatever comes their way. This allows them to take on new challenges and overcome obstacles.

Children with low self-esteem, on the other hand, may feel uncertain about themselves and their abilities. They may be afraid of rejection or failure and may avoid situations where they feel they will be judged. They may also have difficulty standing up for themselves or asserting their needs. As a result, they may not reach their full potential.

Parents as the Main Force behind Building Self Esteem

Parents play a vital role in their children’s lives. Their view of, value for, and treatment of their children can have a profound impact on their learning.

Self-esteem can develop as early as infancy when a child experience safety, love, and acceptance. These positive experiences help children develop a sense of self-worth and confidence. Parents can boost their self-esteem by paying attention, allowing them to try new things, giving them positive reinforcement, and expressing pride in their accomplishments.

As your children’s first teachers, it is important to remember that each child is different. Each child has unique strengths and weaknesses. Some can quickly develop self-esteem, while some might take longer to build. 

Dos and Donts when Building Self-Esteem

There are many things a parent can do to help their children develop self-esteem. It can be as simple as praising them, but it can also be giving them the freedom to do what they want.

There are five simple steps that parents can take to build a child’s self-esteem. First, listen and acknowledge your child’s thoughts and feelings. It shows that you value their opinions and experiences, and it helps them to feel heard and understood.

Then, create situations that help your child experience success, not failure. This can be done by setting clear and appropriate expectations, offering reasonable amounts of help, providing adequate incentives, and removing obstacles. However, remember not to make them only ever experience success without failure.

Give your child a feeling of reasonable control over their life. This means allowing them to make choices and decisions, even small ones, and allowing them to learn from their mistakes. It can help them understand what is right and wrong to do.

Reinforce that your child is lovable and capable. This can be done through words of affirmation, physical touch, and actions that show your belief in them.

Remember that overpraising kids and not letting them experience failures and mistakes will do more harm than good. Children who are constantly praised for their natural abilities may develop an inflated sense of self-worth, which can lead to difficulty handling failure.

Moreover, Jim Taylor, author of the book “Your Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You,” said that constant praise can lead children to believe that they don’t need to try hard because they’re already perfect. 

At the same time, do not give inaccurate praises, as children may find them confusing, leading them to doubt their own abilities. They may also learn that praise is not always genuine and can be used to manipulate them.

How Self-Esteem Builds a Positive Self Image

Self-esteem and self-image are closely related concepts, but they are different. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, while self-image is how you see yourself physically and mentally. A positive self-image can contribute to high self-esteem and vice versa.

The image we see in the mirror can be a reflection of our true selves, or it can be distorted by our thoughts and feelings. 

When we have a positive self-image, we see ourselves as we really are. We recognize our assets and potential, and we are realistic about our liabilities and limitations. However, when we have a negative self-image, we focus on our faults and weaknesses, and we distort our failures and imperfections.

A child’s self-image is largely influenced by early childhood experiences. Parents, caregivers, teachers, friends, and family all play a role in shaping children’s view of themselves. 

This is why parents and caregivers need to show their children that they have a positive view of them. As a result, this will help them develop a positive view of themselves, as they will see that you are confident and capable.

One of the ways to help children build a positive self-image is through mindfulness. It is the practice of being fully present in the moment and paying attention to one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Mindfulness can enhance a child’s positive self-image by promoting emotional regulation.

Another way is through words of affirmation. Apart from building a positive self-image, positive affirmations for kids can encourage healthy habits and even inspire beneficial action. For instance, you can give praise when they do house chores or even simple gestures such as saying “please” and “thank you.”

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