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Low Self Esteem In Your Kids

Updated on January 16, 2015

Most parents know that how they treat their children helps them develop better opinions and feelings about themselves. This is known as self esteem, or how your children feel about themselves, despite a bad grade or the loss of that softball game two weeks ago. You and your partner have a huge influence in whether your children develop low or high self esteem.

What is Low Self Esteem?

Low self esteem is based mainly in how your child has done in the present. Using the loss of the softball game is an excellent example. If your child suffers from low self esteem, she blames herself for the loss according to the University of Texas-Austin. The loss of that softball game defines how she feels and thinks about herself. Even though several team players share responsibility for the loss, your child believes that she alone is responsible. Maybe she struck out at a critical moment in the game – but that missed catch by the outfielder didn’t help.

Listen to your child as she talks about herself and her “inabilities.” This will clue you in to how she truly feels about herself. “I’m such a loser. I shouldn’t be on any sports teams. I only make our team lose.”

Children who suffer from low self esteem take on one of three roles:


º The Victim, who is convinced she can’t cope with the world or challenges. She waits for others to rescue her. You can recognize this “face” by identifying the air of indifference or self-pity The Victim wears to shield herself. She is typically an underachiever, relies too much on others and refuses to assert herself in different situations.
º The Imposter may be more difficult to recognize. She tries to appear successful and happy – but deep down, she is a quivering mess of fear. She’s afraid of failing and being found out. As a result, she becomes a perfectionist, striving for perfect grades, the perfect game or dance performance.
º The Rebel can be recognized by her insistence that she doesn’t care about the opinions of others, such as you, her dance teacher or coach. You’ll hear her expressing anger that she “just isn’t good enough!” In trying to prove that the criticisms of others don’t hurt, she may resist authority, blame others for problems or break rules.

What Leads to Low Self Esteem?

Low self esteem doesn’t develop in a vacuum. It has been allowed to take root and grow by authority figures who don’t recognize that how they treat a child affects how that child eventually comes to feel and believe about himself.

Children who grow up hearing frequent disapproval about how they did in school, their most recent report card or how they treated their grandparents soon believe that, no matter what they do, it won’t be good enough, says Psychology Today.

Children who are raised by uninvolved parents, parents in conflict with each other, or parents who disapprove of them will think poorly of themselves.

Other factors can lead to your child's poor self esteem:

  • Being bullied. If you are too supportive, your child can't develop a thick skin
  • Not paying attention to your child when he reports being bullied by others.
  • Experiencing trauma, such as child abuse, or being forced into a situation against his will.
  • Not providing academic or emotional support when your child begins to fail a subject.
  • Not stepping in to let your child know that popular belief systems, the media and society shouldn't define who he is.

What Should Parents Do About It?

While you can’t and shouldn’t shield your children, you can take an active role in helping them shape their self esteem. This begins early in your child’s life:

º Allow your child to try something new without intervening.
º Pick a block of time when you and your child can concentrate on the new skill.
º Allow your child to make mistakes and messes without rescuing her.
º Encourage your child when she experiences a setback (try not to call setbacks “failures”).

Tips For Building Self Esteem In Your Child

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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      As parents, we have a great deal to do with how our children feel about themselves. Our actions both toward them and toward each other have a definite affect on what happens in the minds of our children. These are great tips and suggestions that we can use to make a positive difference!