High Self-Esteem in Children
High self -esteem is confidence in one’s own worth or abilities and an intrinsic self-respect.
Peers can influence the type of person that we become and how we feel about ourselves. It is important to choose peers that will help us become the person that we want to be. Being aware of the effect others can have on our self-confidence is the first step in taking control of our life and developing healthy self-esteem.
We can be ourselves
We do not feel the need to adapt our views, values or behavior to meet the expectations of others. This is easier said than done for some children/adults.
Not long ago, a young boy told me that someone was bullying him. I asked a few questions and the little boy responded:
“He said that I live in a second hand house.” Now to some children this would be brushed off immediately. But for this little man who had been bullied over a long period of time it had a far greater impact.
He knew that other children were more respected than his family that had no jobs and relied on government funding through no fault of their own. But, the bottom line is, that this family is one of the most loving families that I have had the pleasure to meet in a long time.
We accept disagreement
High self-esteem allows us to accept that others will often disagree with us. Because we feel comfortable with ourselves and love who we are, we are able to accept that others have a different opinion. There is NO emotional charge when someone disagrees-the child/adult with high self –esteem accepts.
If we have low self-esteem we may get anxious or flustered when someone challenges our opinion or actions. High self-esteem allows us to acknowledge the challenge and put our argument across without the need to concede or experience fear of disapproval.
We do not fear uncertainty
When we take on new opportunities, we know that the end result cannot be guaranteed. This does not deter us; it excites us to think of all the positive possibilities. In this day and age we are seeing more and more parents protecting their children so much that they limit many life experiences.
Recently, a young boy was climbing a very stable looking tree that was especially made by the universe for climbing. Because he could have fallen he was asked to come down immediately.
When we were young we climbed trees and saw the world from a different reality, we built cubby houses from the branches and learnt about the sky the animals and insects and developed our fine and gross motor skills. But most importantly we took risks and took responsibility for our actions. Both traits that are necessary in the classroom and in life.
Perfectionism is a major source of stress. When we feel the need to be perfect, we are setting ourselves up for failure. The best that we can do in any given moment is to do our best. There will be mistakes and we will make some bad decisions. When we lose the need to be perfect, we learn from our mistakes rather than berate ourselves for them.
Evidence of poor self esteem
- Social withdrawal
- Anxiety and emotional turmoil
- Lack of social skills and self- confidence.
- Depression and/or bouts of sadness
- Less social conformity
- Inability to accept compliments
- An Inability to be fair to yourself
- Over emphasizing the negative
- Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
- Self- neglect
- Treating yourself badly but NOT other people
- Reluctance to take on challenges
- Reluctance to put yourself first
- Reluctance to trust your own opinion
These are only a few of the indicators of poor self-esteem. If you see any of these traits in your child seek help as soon as possible. The self -loathing and stinking thinking can escalate in a small amount of time.
Strategies to Help
- Discover and highlight your strengths. Every person is good at something. It could be a mental attribute, a physical trait, a problem-solving characteristic. Maybe it comes so naturally to you, and you’ve been doing it for so long, that you’ve taken it for granted. Maybe you haven’t noticed that you’re good at something, but someone else may have pointed it out – pay attention to compliments. List down all these things that you are good at and remind yourself that you may not be good at everything, but you are certainly good at some things. This will boost your self-esteem.
- Turn negative feedback into constructive criticism. Rather than accepting criticism as truth and allowing it to get you down, why not accept it as a challenge to improve yourself. Thinking negative thoughts only makes for negative feelings which in turn drives behavior. Often parents and teachers see aberrant behaviors and punish the students. But, negative behaviors are telling us that someone is hurting badly. Open communication is the best way to support the child.
Break the notion of perfection.
While it’s good to seek self-improvement, we have to make adjustments for what is realistic and what is accessible and right for us. We shouldn’t give ourselves a hard time by aiming for some ideal that doesn’t really fit us. And we should remind ourselves that nobody is perfect, no matter how beautiful, wealthy or successful.
Ann Foster is a guidance officer who works with children who have special needs.
Her other passion is tutoring students in English especially in reading, writing and spelling.
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