Building Self-Esteem in Children

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-Esteem is essentially what we think about ourselves. At times we judge ourselves and this may lead to a positive evaluation where we feel good about ourselves for a period of time; and other times we may judge ourselves negatively and wind up feeling bad. There are also times where we aren’t judging ourselves at all and are instead living mindfully in the moment.

Children with Low Self-Esteem tend to present with: anxiety; irritability; more somatic complaints; feeling uncomfortable around other people; give up more easily; worry about new experiences; being more easily influenced by peer pressure; and difficulty recognising their positives.

Children with Healthy Self-Esteem tend to present with: confidence; willingness to try new things; perseverance; less fluctuations with moods; more content, outgoing and independent; and can recognise their positives.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

Some examples include:

• Aggressive Parenting
• Parental conflict
• Dismissing your child rather than validating and nurturing them
• Lack of praise, empathy and interest toward your child
• Neglect or abuse
• Bullying
• Social difficulties
• Academic difficulties
• Traumatic event/s
• Society and Media/Social Media

How Can Parents Help build their Child’s Self-Esteem?

• Understanding the impact your relationship with your child has on the development of their self-esteem is critical.
• Learning to encourage positive self-concept through role modelling.
• Learning to help your child develop good social and communication skills.
• Learning to assist your child to judge themselves fairly and accurately.
• Learning to help your child develop the confidence to manage their own feelings, such as anger and worry.
• Providing consistent discipline and boundaries for your child, as this will create an optimal environment for learning and development (please refer to my page on 123 Magic for an effective discipline strategy).
• Providing positive praise to encourage appropriate behaviour.
• Learning how to parent with empathy and validation, rather than dismissing and ignoring your child.
• Learning how to listen effectively.
• Learning to set age appropriate and realistic expectations (i.e. don’t encourage your child to strive for perfection as it doesn’t exist).
• Learning how to help your child solve problems and set goals for themselves.
• Stay connected with your child.
• Place limits on contact with social media and the internet and provide education regarding what they see on television (i.e. fiction versus real life). Children may compare themselves to others and this can often negatively impact their self-esteem.

Helpful Strategies for Children?

A Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist can help children with low self-esteem build a healthy outlook of themselves by addressing the following:
• Confident body language.
• Effective Social and Communication Skills.
• Dealing with bullying (please see my page on ‘Bullying’).
• Learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings rather than using avoidance or distraction techniques.
• Prescribing fun activities.
• Giving to others and being helpful.
• Learning the importance of accepting help rather than going it alone.
• Trying new things.
• Accepting constructive feedback and moving forward rather than dwelling on it.
• Understanding the danger of striving for perfection and learning to set realistic goals and expectations.
• Understanding the importance of willingness to experience uncomfortable feelings in order to achieve your goals.

If you feel your child is struggling with their self-esteem and it is impacting on their social, emotional or academic functioning, please make an appointment with Leia to begin psychological treatment. Fostering a healthy self-esteem in children can set them up to live a meaningful life, involving healthy and satisfying relationships, achieving academically and in all aspects of their life.

Reference: Phelan, T. W. (1996). Self-Esteem Revolutions in Children: Understanding and Managing the Critical Transitions in Your Child’s Life. Illinois: Child Management Inc.