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Self-Esteem

How Parenting Impacts a Child’s Self-Esteem

June 29, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

How Parenting Impacts a Child's Self-Esteem

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.

What is Self-Esteem?

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?

Why is Self-Esteem Important?

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.

how parenting impacts a child's self-esteem

How Parenting Impacts a Child’s Self-Esteem

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.

The Effects of Conditional and Unconditional Parenting on a Child’s Self-Esteem

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.

Unconditional Parenting Positively Impacts Self-Esteem

Unconditional parenting occurs when children are loved and valued just for the way they are.

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.

How to Parent Unconditionally and Positively Influence Self-Esteem

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:

Phrases to Nurture a Child’s Self-Esteem (1)

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!

Final Thoughts on How Parenting Impacts a Child’s Self-Esteem

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.

If you like this post, please share it with others and subscribe to my blog to get access to my freebies page! 

how parenting impacts a child's self-esteem

References

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/

comments (20)

  • avatar image
    This is a fantastic article you have written. I aim to parent inline with all your tips. I have always stressed that often tantrums csn be confusion as they don't understand why they can not have something or them trying to express how they feel. I try the time in approach too instead of the time out. Thank you for sharing! Alyssa THESACREDSPACEAP.COM

    Alyssa

    June 30, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      June 30, 2019 Reply
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    Nurturing a child's interest in certain activities is a wonderful way to help them grow!

    Jaya Avendel

    June 30, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks for reading!

      Tamra Cater

      June 30, 2019 Reply
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    This is fantastic. I'm living proof of the impact. My Mum was quite pushy on education and studying, so much praise for A's, whilst Bs (which are fantastic) would get a damper reception. I exhausted myself throughout my education. Aged 30, I have little self-belief, anxiety, depression and constantly stressed in my mum's company. I love her but as I get older I've come to realise her own insecurities were passed on to me because she wanted the best for me and the things she didn't have as a kid. I take responsibility for most of my characteristics, but I hold her accountable to an extent. Don't do it to your kids, folks! Thanks for sharing this post.

    Gemma

    June 30, 2019 Reply
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      My parents were the same way. I think it has a lot to do with the anxiety and depression that I have as well. Thanks for reading!

      Tamra Cater

      June 30, 2019 Reply
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        Great post. I was raised on conditional parenting and felt so unworthy if there was ever an award I didn't win. As I raise my own kids, this article will come in so helpful.

        Kassy

        July 2, 2019 Reply
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          Thank you. Me as well!

          Tamra Cater

          July 2, 2019 Reply
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    I agree with all of your points. I try to use a similar approach, and I like how you break the topic down.

    Jennifer

    June 30, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you! :)

      Tamra Cater

      June 30, 2019 Reply
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    Beautifully written from a heart that has "been there". Love you!!!!

    Nancylee Rast Cater

    July 1, 2019 Reply
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    Another helpful post! Thank you so much for sharing. Brooke Hampton's quote from the Barefoot Five really sticks with me. I'm pretty worried that I'm going to end up messing up my kid's self-esteem, but I think that quote (and your tips) will help me do the best that I can.

    Kaci

    July 2, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks. It sticks with me too! I definitely have the same worries, but I’m going to do my best to follow my own tips :)

      Tamra Cater

      July 2, 2019 Reply
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    It is so important as parents we realize we were children once, at times we forget. I have learned to express myself towards my kids, if I am upset I let them know I will talk to them later till I cool down. I also will apologize if I say something that was upsetting. Good Points!

    Sherley

    July 2, 2019 Reply
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    Great advice Tamra! It's interesting to hear your memories of the things your parents said to you and how often, it seemed they were trying to motivate you and obviously did the opposite. Taking notes over here!

    Rachel

    July 3, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you Rachel. These are definitely things I want to keep in mind for my own daughter. Sometimes it's hard to realize the effect that the way a person says something can have such a profound effect.

      Tamra Cater

      July 3, 2019 Reply
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    This is a great article! I try to be very cognizant of what I say to my children, but it is so easy to not pay attention and just say something without realizing the potential effects and what the child takes from your comments.

    Sarah

    July 5, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you. I do as well, and I think sometimes it's hard to always know what effect it may have.

      Tamra Cater

      July 5, 2019 Reply
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    Wonderful post.

    Amarjeet Sonia Madaan

    July 6, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      July 6, 2019 Reply