Self-esteem is the perception we all have of ourselves.
It is the value and trust we place in our abilities.
As you know better than me, there is a lot of talk about self-esteem as a value to be pursued, as something to develop and implement. This is certainly a discussed topic in modern society.
For this reason, I decided to write an article on the importance of encouraging self-esteem in children and how it can develop and show its first traits from the first days, as newborns.
Let’s see what self-esteem means in children, how it develops with age and, mainly, how we can stimulate healthy and positive growth in the various stages of our children’s lives.
Self-esteem in children: when it start to develop
Positive or negative, self-esteem depends on the way we face daily challenges and relate to others. Also, self-esteem depends on the context we live in: family, culture, experiences we have and which influence our self-perception.
Do you think this only happens in our adult lives? Absolutely not!
What is self-esteem in children?
For children, as for adults, having good self-esteem means believing in their abilities and nurturing self-love. Appropriate self-confidence empowers individuals to confront challenges, learn, grow, and embrace new experiences with increasing assurance. Gradually, children recognize their capabilities and gain the confidence to manage their environment.
For this reason, it is essential to establish positive relationships with children from the first days and give unconditional love, to influence their self-esteem positively. In this way, children feel loved and accepted for who they are, regardless of their actions or what they succeed or fail to do. It is no coincidence that children who grow up in dysfunctional families and who have never received loving gestures become more fragile and insecure as adults.
Behaviors to avoid to increase children’s self-esteem
We know that children are like sponges, they learn from what we do and say and from how we relate to them. Therefore, many of our behaviors can have a negative impact for their self-esteem. Here are some examples:
- Criticize and judge, rather than having an empathetic and proactive attitude. For example, if the child makes a mistake, you should avoid phrases like “you made a mistake because you’re stupid.” It is always a good choice to attribute responsibility for the error to the person’s behavior instead of judging the person themselves (like saying: “you’re stupid”).
- Comparisons with other children. Comparing the peculiarities and abilities of a child with the skills of another, be it a friend or a brother/sister, will make him feel inadequate.
- Being overly protective and taking over for the child while he does an activity. Sometimes it happens that, to speed up activities or to prevent the child from making mistakes, the parent takes the place of the child. This attitude sends the message that the child’s actions are wrong and all the efforts are useless. It is always better to let the child be autonomous and give the opportunity to choose and make mistakes.
- Labeling children. Labeling a child with statements like: “You are inattentive” or “You do everything wrong”, bring the child believe that he o she is incapable of learning, changing, or improving. It’s essential to understand that children are not inherently naughty or unintelligent. The act of labeling them and reinforcing negative messages can shape their behavior based on the labels we impose.
Here are some tips for enhancing self-esteem in children based on their age. As children grow, they face unique challenges; providing appropriate encouragement can help them build confidence and boost their self-esteem.
How to increase self-esteem in newborns
Self-esteem begins to form in the very first months of life! Although newborns don’t yet understand themselves as independent individuals, this is the ideal time to lay the foundation for their self-esteem. Here are some effective practices for this stage of development:
- Respect the newborn’s physical and psychological needs, building a trusting relationship to make them feel safe and secure.
- Interact with the newborn through cuddling, eye contact, smiling, talking and playing. These small actions are crucial for social and cognitive development and help to manage the emotions.
- Offer unconditional love, making the child feel cherished and deserving of love.
- Promote the psychophysical development of children (consider a Montessori gym). In the first months of life, it’s essential for a newborn to explore the world around them. This allows them to learn through direct experiences and their senses.
It’s often said that newborns have limited interaction with adults, and while this may be true, it doesn’t diminish the importance of these aspects. Even seemingly trivial actions at this age can have a significant impact on a child’s future.
How to enhance self-esteem in young children:
As children grow, they become more aware of themselves and their surroundings. This phase is critical for continuously strengthening their self-esteem.
During this stage, remember to:
- Create a safe and nurturing environment where your child can explore freely and independently, starting with crawling. This helps them develop a sense of discovery and curiosity.
- Encourage freedom of choice. Allow your child to make selections from options you’ve determined to be safe and suitable. Ask questions like: “Would you like an apple or a banana?” and respect a “no” as a choice.
- Provide opportunities for socializing with other children to develop social skills. Visiting the playground or participating in playgroups can foster self-esteem.
- Promote independence, following the Montessori method’s principle of helping the child do things on their own. Encourage them to tackle basic tasks independently, such as dressing themselves or feeding.
How to increase self-esteem in preschool children
During the preschool years, children become more independent, viewing the world from their own perspective and making comparisons with others.
If you’ve followed Montessori principles in their earlier years, you may have introduced tools like the Montessori bed or tower, which can positively impact their independence and, subsequently, their self-esteem.
At this stage, consider the following tips to boost your child’s self-esteem:
- Recognize and appreciate your child’s efforts and achievements in a balanced manner. Say, “I’m proud of you; you did your best” and encourage him or her to appreciate their friends’ successes. Explain that losing is a natural part of life and reassure the child that your love and appreciation is the same, regardless of the outcome or victory.
- Encourage your child to be independent and offer positive feedback on their progress, rather than focusing solely on their mistakes. This approach helps them develop a sense of competence and self-confidence.
- Promote social interaction, such as participation in group games or attendance at nursery school. These experiences enable your child to interact with others and gain confidence in social situations.
- Foster a sense of responsibility by involving the child in household chores, like setting the table. This demonstrates trust and makes the child feel important for the family.
- Listen attentively and show genuine interest in your child’s passions and interests. Dedicate exclusive time together to strengthen your bond.
In conclusion, to booster your child’s self-esteem, it’s essential to make them feel loved and deserving of that love. This journey begins in the first months of life, and your approach should adapt to their developmental stages. Overall, is important to avoid criticism or judgment, comparisons with others and excessive protectiveness. Instead, give to the child the space to grow independently and mindfully.
I’d like to read your thoughts, comments, and experiences with this significant phase of growth. Please share your insights; comments are open.