Being a parent is hard — not only do you have the responsibilities of feeding your kids, helping them with homework and making sure they get to practice on time, but you’re also responsible for fostering mental health and self-esteem, encouraging good behaviors and steering them in the direction of morally upright decision making.
Any parent can tell you there’s no instruction manual on how to do these things; every child is different, with unique personalities and experiences. But there are actions you can take as a parent to help build self-esteem and give your child tools to develop strong mental health despite any external factors.
Why is self-esteem important?
Self-esteem is how we view and value ourselves, including the beliefs we hold about ourselves. It determines how we face situations, how we view our abilities and how capable we believe ourselves to be when learning something new, how confident we appear when meeting new people or how we speak to and treat ourselves.
Self-esteem is similar to self-confidence in that it plays a large role in how we face the world and interact with the people around us. It is largely influenced by our upbringing, meaning it’s crucial to encourage healthy self-esteem in children at a young age. This can mean the difference between being confident as an adult or being intimidated and overwhelmed by the world around us.
What causes low self-esteem in Childhood?
Unfortunately, low self-esteem is much easier to fall into than a sense of healthy self-esteem, and many situations in our society do harm self-esteem. Knowing the causes of low self-esteem can help you build resilience in your children, as well as guide them away from situations that are avoidable and walk them through the ones that are not.
Common causes of low self-esteem include:
- Difficulty making friends or feeling victimized by the people around them
- Being bullied
- Not feeling supported or encouraged at home
- Being over-praised (if a child is knowingly struggling with homework and you say, “You’re doing great,” this can cause them to view all praise as a lie since they don’t believe they’re actually doing great — instead, praise their perseverance and ensure them that working hard is more important than getting an A)
- Feeling insecure about their physical appearance or body (this can easily occur through social media exposure)
- Having caregivers or authority figures who don’t pay attention
- Experiencing conflict in the home, including authority figures who are often in conflict or associating with one another in a negative way
Children are heavily influenced by their environment and are constantly watching and learning, whether we’re aware of it or not. These interactions can, and do, have a strong impact on the way in which self-esteem develops.
How to build self-esteem
Building self-esteem may feel like an upward battle, but it’s well worth the time and effort you put into your child. The earlier you teach your children to view themselves in a positive way and minimize negative self-talk, the better prepared they will be for their teenage years and adulthood.
Don’t expect perfection
We, as adults, often hold ourselves to extreme expectations – and exhaust ourselves because of it. Think how much more it exhausts a child who is held to this challenging standard. Instead of expecting your child to exceed in all they do, instead, encourage them to do their best, give their all and be at peace with the results no matter what.
If they struggle through a math quiz or make a mistake during the game, don’t focus on it. Focus instead on the lesson they learned and how they’re going to take that and learn from it. Mistakes can foster incredible growth if looked at in a positive light.
Help them work through their emotions
A child who feels controlled by their emotions might struggle with self-esteem, not knowing how to properly respond to situations and thereby feeling embarrassed by big reactions or emotions. Remind them that emotions are nothing to be embarrassed about, but is dictated by emotion isn’t the right way to handle them.
Instead, walk your child through their emotions — What happened to make you feel this way? What did you do well in that situation? What could you have tried to do better? The next time it happens, how do you want to respond instead?
Of course, taper these questions to appropriately reflect your child’s age; but you might be surprised at how even the youngest toddler has the ability to talk with you about their feelings.
Let your kid fail
It sounds cruel, but giving your child the space to take healthy risks can build their self-esteem remarkably. They will learn that they can face their fears and take on big responsibilities, and will also learn the importance of not getting everything right all the time. Giving them the chance to make mistakes in a properly supervised way will give them the courage to try new things and learn as they do so.
There are numerous benefits to fostering self-esteem, including teaching your children how to value themselves and take pride in their beliefs and strengths, as well as giving them the courage to face the things that come.
Building self-esteem is not only good for your children but can also help you as a parent. If you ever feel the need for additional help as you handle the challenges of parenting, consider The Light Program. To learn more about our counseling services, send us a message or call us at 610-644-6464.