Self-esteem is the cornerstone of one’s mental well-being. And, it is inseparable from how we are treated as kids – namely by our parents, siblings, extended family, teachers, and friends. Moreover, the primary influence on our sense of self-worth is a parent’s attitudes and responses to a child’s needs and feelings.
Whether we are valued, cherished, accepted, understood, given freedom all impact how we view ourselves and how we relate to the world as adults.
For a child to develop a healthy and accurate self-esteem, they need mirroring, attunement, and validation from their primary caregivers. As children, we internalize other people‘s perception of us which eventually becomes our self-image. If a child doesn‘t get enough of good nurturing, their ability to self-assess is stunted or even damaged.
A person’s self-worth or self-value is the key to a healthy self-esteem. People with low self-esteem believe they don’t deserve the best or that others are more important. This lack of self-worth prevents them from speaking up or doing the things they want to do. They neglect their own needs which impact their quality of life.
Developing self-esteem in a child is an ongoing process. Every action of a parent builds or destroys a child’s developing sense of self. You may give your kids everything but if you do not actively foster your child-esteem you have failed her/him at a very deep level.
Some of the things that directly impact your children’s self-esteem:
1) Treat You Child With Respect and Care
Many parents treat their kids as an extension of themselves, they see their child as subordinate or a thing to be manipulated. They are expected to make their parents proud by getting top grades and being the top athlete. They are trophies to be exhibited. A child in this kind of environment will forever be wracked with fear of not being good enough and failing. The end result is life-long anxiety and low self-esteem
2) Don’t compare
When you compare your child to others you are denying their uniqueness. You directly telling them who they are is not good enough. You suppress their natural talents and gifts and make them into copies of who you want them to be. The message you give is You are not good enough how you are, you have to be like this in order to be worth something. Further, it creates feelings of resentment and hatred if the person you compare them to is a sibling.
Darius Cikanavicius in his book Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults elucidates this, “When caregivers negatively compare their children to others and place them in unnecessarily competitive environments, this adds to the children feeling insecure, cautious, flawed, distrustful, and not good enough.”
3) Don’t minimize their feelings and dreams
Making fun of their feelings particularly when they are sad and break into tears screaming at them to shut up and do as they are told. It is the worst thing a parent can do. You not only deny them their right to express their needs but many a time you are training them to just accept any injustice without protest. So in adulthood, they will be racked with a feeling of helplessness and depression in the face of any abuse. I know the feeling of having had my emotions suppressed and neglected, Many times I feel so helpless to fight back.
Don’t laugh or deride when they say they want to become a pilot or Michel Phelps. Ask them why, and how they plan to go about it. Their dreams may keep changing but go with them to their land of fantasy. Sometimes dreams do come true.
4) Don’t force them to join the crowd
As parents we want our kids to fit into cultural mores that we think is appropriate. Many of us feel threatened when our children fail to comply with our sense of what is the best. So what do we do? We brow-beat them into submission till eventually, we have molded them into caricatures of their true selves. We strip them of their uniqueness, their drive, their adventurousness and self-preservation instincts.
Don’t push your child, provide guidance, encouragement and the space to become his own person. Someone who can navigate life confidently.
5) Don’t praise too much
Current research suggests that too much of praise can undermine self-esteem in the long run. It has been concluded that praise may not good for your child. Saying a child is ‘clever’ may not help her at school. In fact, it might cause her to under-perform. When we praise them for trivial things they don’t get on to doing the difficult tasks because they have got their fix of dopamine and secondly they become afraid of trying out challenging tasks because they don’t want to fail.
The thrill created by being told ‘You’re so clever’ gives way to an increase in anxiety and a drop in self-esteem, motivation, and performance So, don’t just dish out praise for short-term highs be wise and encourage your child to further improve on their skills in an unobtrusive manner.
Parenting For Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is that one vital element that affects a person’s success and well-being in life. It’s simple if we don’t feel good about ourselves and who we are, we will not feel good about the world we live in. It will affect our relationships and confidence. It is that one factor that separates the winners from the losers.
Being aware of how we relate to our kids and avoiding behaviors that affect their fragile developing self will determine a child’s self-esteem for their entire lifetime. Even in the face of difficulties your child will have enough confidence and grit to overcome challenges.