Sometimes I look at my 4 year old daughter when she’s playing, trying new things with no hesitation, or trying to convince me her way is the right way, and hope she’ll always stay this way. Confident, brave, and with high self esteem, kids have it all just like that. They are born feeling that they are important, and stay that way until us – adults send them signals, that it’s not entirely true. This is why I decided to take part in a webinar organised by psychologist Dominika Słowikowska “Self esteem in children”, and now I’d like to share with you the incredible knowledge I got from this event.
1.What is self esteem?
Self esteem is the way we see ourselves. The way we think about ourselves. A person with high self-esteem doesn’t try to be perfect, and doesn’t depend self worth with the way others see her/him.
2. Facts about children’s self-esteem
- Foundations of high-self esteem is built at babyhood. Between
2 – 6 months old baby discovers that it can make his mum smile, and this little fact is a start of high self-esteem. Interactions with people are shaping child self-worth.
- Children build picture of themselves based on how are they treated, and what do they hear about them from others. This is why happy interactions are so important between children and parents. It’s little things that counts, for example, show that you’re happy, when given bunch of daisies on the walk, appreciate drawings and little successes.
- Little kids are very sensitive. They can’t defend themselves from negative comments. So, don’t compare, judge, criticize, because it has immediate negative effect on their self-esteem.
- For children it’s not obvious that we love them all the time. This is why you hear ‘I love you’ thousand times a day. That’s the reason why they come for a cuddle when you are the busiest, or your attention focuses on something else.
3. How to build high self-esteem in children.
- Show your child that you accept it just as it is, with highs and lows, successes and failures, because they don’t indicate somebody’s worth.
- Show that you love your child, no matter what situation you’re in.
Be open to signals send by your child. If your child wants a cuddle, and you’re busy don’t say. – Here you go, you’ve had a cuddle. Now go and play. – This lowers importance of the cuddle. It makes child feel that this thing you’re doing is more important.
- Children aren’t bad – their behaviour is. This is important message.
In the case of difficult behaviour the signal should be – I don’t like your behaviour, but I still love you very much. –
- Show your child that his/hers opinion matters. Ask questions, take child’s ideas on board. Let your child say if it doesn’t agree with something. Listen, react, and don’t have it your way no matter what.
- Spend time with your child – we are all very busy, we have work,
and problems to solve. I think this year reminded us all, how important
it is to stop sometimes, put the phone down, and spend time together.
- Spot and enhance strong sides of your child. As parents very often we focus on what our child can’t do, and we don’t see things it’s good at. Praise your child for trying to do things independently, even if it fails.
- Let your child see the world on it’s own way. There are things you don’t like, but your child may think they are beautiful.
- Teach your child that some emotions are nice, but some may be unpleasant. All emotions are okay, and you have to feel them to understand them. Don’t tell your child that it shouldn’t cry, because nothing really happened. Your child see it different way, and something happened to upset him/her. By saying that you send a signal, that child’s emotions are incorrect, and it will feel lost, and misunderstood.
- Take every fear seriously. Don’t say that there’s nothing to be scared of. Ask about it, draw together monster from under the bed, tell a story about someone who had similar fear, and how he dealt with it.
- Limit words like leave it, don’t run and stand still. Children have to try new things. Your child may surprise you with things it can do. If something happens don’t say -Didn’t I tell you?- Just give a cuddle.
- Teach your child to ask for help. Simply say – Let me know if you need me, and I’ll happily help. – This way your child can feel proud of them self and that they can be independent, but won’t get frustrated, and will ask for help if it won’t work.
- Own your mistakes. If you made one, admit it. Teach your child that making mistakes is okay, and you can learn from them.
- Don’t compare your child to other children. This is especially visible at the playground. Mums sit together, boast about their children, and it turns into sort of a race, who’s child is better. Compared children feel that they are worse than others.
- Don’t talk about your child when the child is there. Especially about mistakes and problems. When this happens child stops seeing what’s good about him/her. Don’t let the teacher talk about bad behaviour
in child’s presence.
- Don’t answer questions aimed to your child. If someone ask your child a question don’t answer it, because it’s quicker. If you take it’s voice when it’s little, it won’t have the voice later in life.
- When you are crying, and your child asks why, don’t say that nothing happened. This sends a signal, that being upset, or crying is something wrong/negative. Crying can mean many types of emotions. If you explain what is going on you show that it is okay to cry, and it is okay to show interest when somebody is upset, it is a good reaction.
- Don’t do everything for your child. I know parents do things quicker and better, but children need to learn, and the only way is to let them try to work things out.
- Do NOT say to your child ‘You are the best’! Parents say this to make children feel good about themselves, to motivate them, and yet, very often this message has an adverse effect. Children start to believe that they really are the best in everything the do. When they go to school, and find out it isn’t entirely true. Self-esteem is crushed in a moment.
- When you praise your child don’t use the word but… ‘Wow! You’ve done a great job cleaning your room, BUT you left some toys in this corner.’ It’s like giving and taking away…
This is all for now, I hope you’ll find it useful. I certainly did and felt that I need to share. If you think other people will as well please share it, and leave a good word in the comments.
If you’re looking for some creative activities for you and your children have a look in here:
or maybe try baking together: