Self-esteem plays a large role in our life and in our happiness. So, where does it come from and how does it develop? And how does parenting impact a child’s self-esteem? As I will discuss, parents do have a large impact on the development of self-esteem in our children and how it impacts them for the rest of their life.
As an example, I can remember making a particular score on my SAT. My father’s response was, “I think you can do better.” That may be so, but these kinds of responses resulted in me feeling as if I was not good enough and that I had to do well at academics for my father to be proud of me and possibly even love me. So, parenting and the way we talk to our child matters.
Self-esteem is a person’s overall sense of worth. For example, do they feel like a good or a bad person? Do they feel valued and worthwhile?
A child’s self-esteem affects a number of things, which can include how they approach the world. For instance, children with low self-esteem may feel uncomfortable in social situations and may avoid them. I know, as a child, I had a low self-esteem and was always afraid that I would say something stupid. Because of this, I often avoided new social situations.
Self-esteem is also related to resilience. For example, when faced with a difficult task, a person with high self-esteem will continue to try. A person with low self-esteem may just give up. This may build a sense of learned helplessness- Children with low self-esteem have the perception that their own effort doesn’t make a difference, so why try?
Self-esteem also has implications for the development of depression and anxiety later on. Thus, self-esteem plays an important role in a person’s life and how happy they are.
So, how does a child come to have low or high self-esteem? We are not born with high or low self-esteem, so a lot of it’s learned (however, when it comes to depression, there’s a genetic and experience component to it). Thus, the social experiences that children have do play an important role in the development of a child’s self-esteem.
Parents play a big role in how their child’s self-esteem develops. To start, let’s consider unconditional and conditional parenting.
Conditional parenting means that children are given affection, love, and praise when they do certain behaviors. For example, it could be something as simple as getting money and praise for making all A’s, but when they do not, they are punished in some way. As an additional example, I always felt like I never did well in swim practice, because my mom would criticize me for not always going first when we were doing our workouts (even though these girls were faster). As parents, we may think that our children “know that we love them unconditionally.” But, it’s more important how kids experience the way we treat them rather than how we think we treat them. Conditional parenting is related to lower levels of self-esteem in children.
This kind of parenting does not mean that we allow our children to do what they want, when they want. It just means that we help our children develop good self-esteem and help them feel valued for who they are, rather than for their accomplishments, behaviors, and talents. For instance, according to one article, parents should let their children know that they still love them despite mistakes and failures. In addition, if a parent talks about a child’s performance most of the time, this could result in the child feel as if they are loved only if they perform well.
1.First of all, respect your children’s thoughts, feelings, and reasons. Don’t just respond to their behavior (reward and/or punish them for behaviors). Be sure to also listen to how they feel and what they are thinking. This will help your child feel like they matter and what they think is valued by you.
2.Also, consider that sometimes misbehavior (such as tantrums) is not due to them being manipulative or “naughty.” Children are still learning to control their emotions and behaviors, and sometimes, they just can’t. When this is understood, it is much easier to focus more on the perspective of the child. Instead of sending their child to time out, parents can encourage naps if their child is having a tantrum because they are overly tired.
3.Problem solve with your child as well. Parents can help children come up with solutions to problems. Self-esteem grows when children feel as if they solved a problem head on rather than running from it.
4.The way you talk to your child also matters. Here’s a quote that reflects this:
“Speak to your child as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.” -Brooke Hampton, Barefoot Five
Yes, we may love our children and think that they inherently know that. However, as mentioned before, what is most important is how our children experience this. So, as parents, we may need to be more mindful in ensuring that we manifest our love in the way we talk to our children and interact with them.
One way to do this is by incorporating more words and phrases that help nurture our child’s self-esteem. Here are several examples in this link:
5. One important point to consider is to praise a child’s effort rather than than just saying good job all the time or rewarding the child every time they do something well. In doing this, children learn that effort and persistence does matter too. In turn, the child will be more likely to take on future challenges and obstacles, rather than just giving up.
Also, when you do praise a child, be sure that it’s specific. For example, rather than just saying good job, say, “I love how you helped me clean up your toys!” or “I appreciate your listening to me when I told you to put your toys away.”
Also, be sure to offer genuine praise. For example, rather than saying, “You are the best runner in the whole world,” say, you are a good runner.
6.In another post, I suggested that we should nurture our child’s interests. Children will have higher self-esteem if they can find an activity they are interested in and can do well at it. For example, if you find that your child loves to paint, offer to take them to an art class. In doing so, this can help nurture their interest, as well as help them learn to improve this skill. And in turn, it will increase their self-esteem.
7. There are also some books I discuss in a previous post that can help enhance self-esteem. These stories, for instance, can help build self-esteem and resilience. The Pete the Cat series is great for this!
One of the great things about being a parent is that we have the opportunity to positively impact our child’s life and help them meet their fullest potential. And one of the ways we can do that is by nurturing their self-esteem. In doing so, we parent unconditionally and value them for who they are, not for what they do. We can do this by nurturing our child’s interests, valuing their feelings and thoughts, as well as the way we talk to our children. Sometimes our children will frustrate us, but even in those situations, we can still show our children how much we value and love them. In turn, all of these things can help nurture your child’s self-esteem and build a strong foundation for them to face challenges and obstacles later on in life.
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Mcalpine, R. (2017). How to nurture self-esteem in children and why it’s important. Retrieved from https://www.wellbeing.com.au/kinship/parenting/how-to-nurture-self-esteem-in-your-child-and-why-its-important.html.
Myers, R. (2018). 11 tips on building self-esteem. Retrieved from https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-build-your-childs-self-esteem/