82 Building a child's self esteem

Parenting Article No. 82
Self Esteem is defined simply as “favourable
opinion of oneself” but where does this nebulous
thing come from and why is it important? A
child’s feelings of self worth or self esteem affect
the way they see the world. It influences their
happiness, success at school and the ways they
relate to others. Children are different; they are
born with different temperaments and personality
traits. Some children are easy going from the
word go but others are more difficult; but all
children need to know that they are loved and
accepted for who they are.
Parents have a vital role to play in helping a child
develop a healthy self esteem. In the early years
especially, parents are the most significant adults
in a child’s life so what is said, how they interact
and how they are listened to are all important.
Self esteem is something that grows and
develops over time largely from the messages
that a child receives. If most of the messages a
child receives are negative then this will have an
impact on a child’s view of himself. We all need
to hear about the things we are doing well to feel
good about ourselves.
As adults we all appreciate receiving a
compliment, whether it is about how we look or
something we have done well. Some people find
it very hard to graciously receive a compliment
though. Is it that they can’t accept it or that they
don’t believe it to be true? This maybe an
indicator of a poor self esteem.
Some ways parents can help their children
develop a healthy self esteem are:
 Allowing children to experience success
in the things they do and giving positive
and realistic messages about them and
their abilities.
 Listen to your children. Show that you
value their ideas, thoughts and opinions.
This doesn’t mean that you have to agree
with them but it does mean letting them
have their say and be heard.
Encourage children to express their
feelings. Let them know it’s o.k. to be
angry; it’s just not o.k. to hurt others
when you are angry. Help them find
acceptable ways to express their feelings.
Help your children to develop
independence by allowing them to do
things for themselves. Expecting children
to do some household chores, like making
their bed , tidying their room, and helping
to set the table, gives the message that
contribution valued.
Displaying children’s schoolwork and art
at home shows that their efforts and
achievements are acknowledged.
Help children experience success by
showing them how a task is done by
breaking it down into smaller steps.
Encourage the effort that they make, that
they have a go, it doesn’t always have to
be perfect.
Encourage children to give themselves
realistic feedback on what they have
done. For example, ask children how they
think they have done and what they like
about their picture.
Try to give specific, positive messages
frequently. Rather than saying ‘good boy’
you might say: “I like the way you
packed up your toys.”
Be aware of how often you are criticising
weaknesses or pointing out misbehaviour.
Focus on sending positive messages and
don’t forget to tell your children that you
love them.
For a complete list of Regional Parenting Service articles go to the City of Greater Geelong website