Building Kids’ Self-Esteem


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Updated: 9/28/2012 3:56 pm Published: 9/27/2012 4:44 pm



Healthy self-esteem is like a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic. Carrie Little with Family & Children’s Services stopped by GDGC to talk about building your child’s self-esteem.

Self-esteem is similar to self-worth (how much a person values himself or herself). This can change from day to day or from year to year, but overall self-esteem tends to develop from infancy and keep going until we are adults. Self-esteem also can be defined as feeling capable while also feeling loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities can also develop low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when a good balance is maintained. Patterns of self-esteem start very early in life. The concept of success following effort and persistence starts early. Once people reach adulthood, it's harder to make changes to how they see and define themselves.

Kids with low self-esteem may not want to try new things and may speak negatively about themselves: "I'm stupid," "I'll never learn how to do this," or "What's the point? Nobody cares about me anyway." They may exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over. They tend to be overly critical of and easily disappointed in themselves. Kids with low self-esteem see temporary setbacks as permanent, intolerable conditions, and a sense of pessimism prevails. This can place kids at risk for stress and mental health problems, as well as real difficulties solving different kinds of problems and challenges they encounter.

What parents can do to build confidence in a child:
  • Recognize each child is different. Praise your child for his own special strengths.
  • Help your child feel proud about her own accomplishments.
  • Help your child understand everyone is better at some things than others. We cannot all excel at everything.
  • Be careful what you say – kids are especially sensitive to messages parents give them.
  • Most importantly, spend time with your child. Time is magical!
Remember that your teenage child needs help with self-esteem just like the little ones. Sometimes this is very hard, but you have to let your teen fail at some things to build strength and character. Also, encourage your teen in the areas in which he excels. When people experience success, they grow in self-confidence. As self-confidence grows, they feel empowered to face new challenges, which help in cases where a failure happens to help build the strength to try again. As they succeed in confronting each challenge, they develop the capacity to cope with whatever life throws their way. That feeling leads to further growth of self-confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem.

Family & Children’s Services has a number of classes to help parents understand their children’s development and learn new skills. For more information, call 918.587.9471 or visit fcsok.org.

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