Self-esteem is defined as a feeling of pride in oneself, which can be low or high in different children. It starts from childhood due to the parenting style and environment.
Major indications of a child with high self-esteem are happiness, confidence, and freedom. On the other hand, a child with low self-esteem would show signs of withdrawal, moodiness, and clumsiness.
The good and bad dispositions they pick are supported by the adults around them particularly, their parents as they grow older. Hence, parents have the responsibility to either restrain or nurture the dispositions and behaviours of their children, but unfortunately, most parents are not intentional about how to positively achieve this.
So, we can’t blame children for having low self-esteem because they are only reacting to their environment.
How low self-esteem is induced in children
The following are ways in which parents and society induce low self-esteem in children.
- Too many restrictions on the type of play the child engages in – Playtime is the perfect time for a child to give expression to his tendencies but when this is regularly curtailed and severely measured, it deprives the child of freedom of expression both verbally and socially.
- Talking down to a child and shouting – When a child does wrong, parents and adults should correct them in love by expressing their displeasure in the act and not the child. Beating and physically assaulting a child also erode a child’s self-esteem and should be stopped.
- Comparing a child to another – Every child is different and should be treated differently. Every child has a different learning curve and should be allowed to grow to their state of maturity at their own pace. Milestones are not usually achieved in groups but individually. Two children born at the same time would achieve the different milestones of babyhood and toddlerhood; sitting, crawling, walking, growing teeth, and so on at their own pace and that is not a predictor of success or failure.
- Setting overarching or unattainable goals – Asking a child of 5 years old to write the exam of a 6-year-old (as simple as that) or asking the child to do the task suited for an older sibling or child is setting up the child for failure. And when this is repeated regularly, it makes the child feel like a failure. Tasks and goals given to children must be age appropriate.
- Constantly reminding a child of his weakness or inadequacy – This is how society impacts the self-esteem of a child. The truth is, no one is perfect but some inadequacies (in children) are quite glaring; a lot of which are birth-related and are discovered before or after birth. One out of fifty children has a disability. Some are minor and some are major. Parents must take care (be intentional) to protect their children from bullies and harassers as no child should be made to think or feel incomplete, inadequate, disadvantaged, or ugly. Even worse, parents must be careful that they are not guilty of these as well.
Tips for improving self-esteem in children
The tips below, in no particular order, would help improve the self-esteem of a child:
- Give the child the opportunity to try and fail on a task or project – Failing is a critical part of the learning process.
- Allow the child to try new things – He can learn to cook, play an instrument, a game, a sport, and so on. The more the child masters an art, the more confident he becomes.
- Correct the child with love – The rule is to ‘Hate the act but love the child’. Tell the child why you disapprove of the act. Let them also know they have been forgiven. Furthermore, avoid correcting or chastising your child in public as this can be so embarrassing for the child and he might not get over it in a long time. Just put yourself in the shoes of the child, would you like to be corrected in public?
- Praise the child when he truly deserves it – For a job well done! Be his number one cheerleader both in private and in public.
- Children love to ask questions, encourage it – Do this to help them feed their curiosity. Do not shut your child down. Also, ask the child questions to help draw him out of his cocoon especially if he is extremely reserved. Watch movies or children’s programs together on TV and ask him questions even when you know the answers. The goal is to get him talking confidently.
- Encourage your child to socialize – But be there in the shadows to monitor him. Embolden and support him in making friends and maintaining relationships. Also, find time to play and bond with your child. A child that is assured of the attention and friendship of his parent would be socially adequate; he won’t feel lonely or be too needy of companionship especially if it’s not forthcoming from outside.
- Treat your child kindly – Encourage him to do the same to others. Kindness like praise would lift the spirit and mien of anyone and much more that of a child.
- Give your child books to read – Be intentional about the titles you pick for him. Aside from increasing the word register of a child, which is an enabler of rich communication, reading books is a good way of exposing children to places, people, cultures, and good habits.
The earlier the above tips are adopted and applied to any child, the faster the benefits. However, no matter the age of the child, it’s not too late to help them make the most of their life. These tips would go a long way in helping them become confident, happy, and well-rounded.
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