Self-Esteem – and its importance to our children

Self-Esteem – and its importance to our children

From: No Kidding With Our Kids Foundation

Self-esteem is how much people value themselves and how important they believe they are in their world. You might hear people talk about the importance of self-esteem in children, and “positive self-esteem” in particular. But what exactly is it? And why does it matter so much?

Children who feel good about themselves have the confidence to try new things. They are more likely to try their best. They feel proud of what they can do. Self-esteem helps children cope with mistakes. It helps children try again, even if they fail at first. As a result, self-esteem helps children do better at school, at home, and with friends.

Children with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. If they think others won’t accept them, they may not join in. They may let others treat them poorly. They may have a hard time standing up for themselves. They may give up easily, or not try at all. Children with low self-esteem find it hard to cope when they make a mistake, lose, or fail. As a result, they may not do as well as they could.

Every child is different. Self-esteem may come easier to some children than others. And some children face things that can lower their self-esteem. But even if a child’s self-esteem is low, it can be raised.

There are things parents can do to help children feel good about themselves. For example: Praise your child, but do it wisely.

Of course, it’s good to praise children. Your praise is a way to show that you’re proud of them; but some ways of praising children can actually backfire. Here’s how to do it right:

Don’t overpraise.

Praise that doesn’t feel earned doesn’t ring true. For example: Telling a child he played a great game when he knows he didn’t will feel hollow and fake. It’s better to say, “I know that wasn’t your best game, but we all have off days. I’m proud of you for not giving up.” Add a vote of confidence: “Tomorrow, you’ll be back on your game.”

Praise effort.

Avoid focusing praise only on results (such as getting an A) or fixed qualities (such as being smart or athletic). Instead, offer most of your praise for effort, progress, and attitude. For example: “You’re working hard on that project”; “You’re getting better and better at these spelling tests”; or, “I’m proud of you for practicing – you’ve really stuck with it.” With this kind of praise, children put effort into things, work toward goals, and try. When children do that, they’re more likely to succeed.

Ban harsh criticism.

The messages children hear about themselves from others easily translate into how they feel about themselves. Harsh words (“You’re so lazy!”) are harmful, not motivating. When children hear negative messages about themselves, it harms their self-esteem. Correct children with patience. Focus on what you want them to do next time. When needed, show them how.

Focus on strengths.

Pay attention to what your child does well and enjoys. Make sure your child has chances to develop these strengths. Focus more on strengths than weaknesses if you want to help children feel good about themselves. This improves behaviour too.

Let children make their own choices.

When children make their own age-appropriate choices, they feel more powerful, says Sopik, pointing out that children as young as two can start considering the consequences of their decisions.