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What Is Self Esteem How It Impacts Children What You Should Do About It

Updated on July 18, 2010

What you'll learn from this article:

  1. The Meaning of Self Esteem

  2. How Self Esteem Impacts Children

  3. Warning Signs

  4. Experiences That Can Cause Self Esteem Issues In Children

  5. What To Do About It

What Is Self Esteem?

A psychology term used to reflect personal feelings of yourself - the degree to which one values oneself. When a person does not feel, speak or think positively of themselves, he or she is said to have low self-esteem and vice versa. Per, the definitions are:

1. A realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect.

2. An inordinately or exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself.

How Self Esteem Impacts Children:

Children can establish feelings about themselves based on how others treat them, how they compare themselves to others and what people say about them, to them and around them. Typically, if a child thinks they aren't as pretty or handsome as their friends, as talented as others in music and/or sports, as smart as their classmates and so on, this child will most likely think negatively about themselves and begin to think they aren't as valuable as others. If there is no one around them to remind them that they are pretty, handsome, smart, talented and so on, it can get worse. Our children in the world need to understand and be reminded that they are special in their own way!

Warning Signs:

A child with low self esteem will often focus on what's wrong with them instead of what's right. You will also notice the child making negative comments about themselves such as: I'm ugly, I'm stupid, I can't do anything right, no one likes me and so on. You'll also notice the child will not try new things, less likely to attempt to make friends and always need attention, more attention than normal.

A child with low self esteem is less likely to have boundaries, will allow other kids to bully them, will follow other kids' actions even when they know the actions aren't good, just to fit in. Will allow other kids to abuse them emotionally, physically and more.

Such child will rarely take an initiative to do things and have a tendency to not speak up when they should in fear of being the blame, judged, laughed at or ignored.

This is dangerous!

Additional warnings signs are:

  1. Self pity

  2. Lack of care for anything

  3. Defensive about everything

  4. Clingy

  5. Fear of being alone

  6. Describe themselves as or often feel like the victim in most circumstances

  7. Too often point out bad things about others to deter the attention away from the bad things they think of themselves

  8. Unhealthy jealousy

  9. Frequently exaggerate and/or not speak the truth

  10. Very emotional when things go wrong

Pay close attention to these behaviors because it can lead to self harm, self hate, depression and the child giving up on life as a whole. If a child gives up, they'll stop learning. If a child stop learning and keep these habits, it becomes a recipe for a tough adulthood and it can spread to their children if they ever have any. Do what you can now to stop the cycle. Seek professional help if what you've tried isn't working. Don't procrastinate.

Experiences That Can Cause Self Esteem Issues In Children:

Whether self esteem is high or low is a result of a child's experiences in life and is also a result of how they are treated by their family, friends, teachers and strangers. Below is a list of experiences that can cause self esteem issues in children:

  1. Parents with low self esteem or negative behaviors

  2. Requirements to excessively seek approval before starting or completing a task – can cause self doubt which leads to self esteem issues

  3. Parents who put other people or tasks before them – too often

  4. Teachers/parents that show impatience when dealing with them

  5. Losing a parent due to divorce, abandonment or death

  6. Teachers/parents who belittle them

  7. Too much responsibility too soon which interferes with enjoying childhood and self learning

  8. Verbal or physical abuse

  9. Being ignored

  10. Not given opportunities to be creative, explore, succeed or do well

  11. Teased when a mistake is made

  12. Constantly being the blame

  13. Being told they aren't good enough

  14. Lack of security

  15. Not allowed to make decisions

  16. Not given a chance to speak or think for themselves

  17. Continuous and unnecessary corrections of their actions

What To Do About It:

By reading this article, you've already started. Be happy about that. Avoid beating yourself up if you feel you are the blame for the child having low self esteem or if you've allowed someone else's actions to impact the child's self esteem. If the child has picked up bad habits from you, you know its time to improve yourself. Work on your self esteem issues first.

Then, take the time to think about the warnings signs. Take one day at a time and be patient. Below is a list of things that may be helpful:

  1. Avoid making the child excessively ask for approval before starting or completing a task. Allow the child opportunities to make their own decisions. This will give them a chance to learn from their mistakes, become independent and feel a sense of pride and happiness.

  2. Spend quality time with the child. In today's society, its hard to have time for yourself; therefore, dedicate certain hours in the day or certain days out of the week for time to spend with the child. Be sure to minimize interruptions such as cell phones, visitors, televisions and computers. Be consistent. Do not show that spending quality time with this child is a burden.

  3. When you notice the child's teacher being a negative impact on the child's self esteem, interfere, address it immediately – even if it takes removing your child from the presence of this teacher. Remember, your child gets one chance at life. At times, your child need to see and hear that you will fight for them no matter what.

  4. Avoid giving too much responsibility too soon. Let the child be free of worry, stress, deadlines and severe consequences for tasks they shouldn't be responsible for in the first place. Everyone has one chance at childhood. Let the child have theirs.

  5. Stop the cycle of verbal or physical abuse. Seek professional help immediately for all parties involved.

  6. Give time to be creative, make a mess and explore. It will also be helpful to give the child a task to complete knowing they'll be good at. This is a quick and easy way to build self esteem and confidence.

  7. Never blame, tease the child, make comments to make them feel they aren't good enough or allow it from anyone else. Also realize, you won't be around the child 24/7 and their will be times when they'll have to defend themselves. It'll be easier for the child to do this if the child has healthy self esteem levels.

  8. Make certain the child feels secure. Build trust. Show them you'll be there when you are needed. Minimize too much change. Let the child go at their own pace as much as you can.

  9. When the child is asked a question, give them time to speak and think for themselves. Minimize answering questions for them.

  10. Stop standing over their shoulders and correcting EVERYTHING the child does. This action alone will hurt a child's self esteem. It can make them feel you don't trust them, think they're worthy or smart enough.

Remember to: pay attention, observe your behaviors and the child's behaviors, then act on it - immediately. Continue reading, learning, seeking advice from people you love and trust. Surround yourself and the child with support, positivity and love.

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    • Richard77 profile image

      Richard77 6 years ago from Barrie

      Having raised 2 children who are now 17 & 15 I can honestly say that my wife and I agreed all kids really want is your time. We were not ones to go out much and can't say we did great quality things with the kids but were always around to answer questions and have been very routine with our meals and school expectations. The result is we have 2 pretty normal kids who have made good choices with their friends and have done well is school. Were not perfect and neither are they as we experience some small issues but overall neither suffer from a lot of the current self esteem issues that seems to surface among this generation. Maybe we've been very lucky but whatever it is I am very grateful for we have.