Sense of self in young children

Help your child build their self-esteem.

According to Webster’s dictionary, self-esteem is defined as a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. Self-esteem is something that is built through feeling competent.  As a child grows and changes, so will their self-esteem.  This growth comes from various areas.  A lot of parents think that overloading their child with praise will build self-esteem.  This, in fact, can add a tremendous amount of pressure on a child.  By praising constantly, a child will begin to feel like he is being evaluated in terms of performance.  Michigan State University Extension suggests praising a child based on their efforts, even if they do not reach the ultimate goal.  Praising for trying, or working through a situation or obstacle, will encourage your child to keep trying.  Parents can also boost self-esteem in children by teaching and modeling self-praise.  Although this is probably something most individuals find difficult to do, it is very important to be able to recognize and praise yourself for accomplishments and efforts.  Unconditional praise is also necessary in building self-esteem as well.  Receiving praise such as, “just because” always feels good.  Being told you are important and recognized because you are you, and not because of what you do, brings a sense of importance and peace to some.

Dr. T.Berry Brazelton suggests “In any new task encourage the child, but don’t shape it for him or press him.  Praise him gently when he succeeds.  Let him try out several different ways of doing the same thing, and let him fail until he finds one that works.” Brazelton continues by stating, “If he gets in a jam or follows a dead-end course, don’t rush to help him.  Let him discover his predicament, and praise him when he tries again…within the bounds of safety and respect for others.  But never forget the enormous power of frustration to fuel a small child as he searches for mastery and a sense of his own competence.” This advice may be very difficult to follow for a lot of parents, but it is so important, from a social aspect, that children learn to solve and work through their own problems.  There will be many times that children encounter situations without a parent being present.  If you have taught your child to deal with things on their own then they will feel more confident and competent to work through things when you aren’t around.  Teaching children the skills needed to solve their own problems enhances their sense of competency and, as a result, their self-esteem!

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