Sunday, February 17, 2013

How To Improve a Child's Self Esteem

Self esteem, Self worth, Self concept. These words mean the same thing. Essentially, they all mean, how a child feels about herself. A child develops her self esteem through early messages about herself from her parents, her environment and latterly through the development of a particular talent or skill.

A child will then select messages from her
environment (such as her school or sports club), which will further reinforce these messages.

If a child has poor self esteem, it will take a while to change her negative self concept This is a process that will take time.

It is not always easy to find the source of a child’s negative self esteem. Sometimes she may have got vague message about herself and her fantasy has filled in the rest.

Examples of low self esteem are: blaming others, unable to say ‘no’, whining, unable to lose a game, attention seeking behaviours such as playing the class joker, excessive shyness or withdrawn behaviours.

Practical Ways to Improve a Child’s self esteem

Below are some ideas about how to improve a child’s self esteem:-
1.       Listen and acknowledge a child’s feelings.
2.       Accept the child as she is, treat her with respect.
3.       Give specific and to the point praise, e.g. you played well in the match today.
4.       Be honest, if she did not play well then that is fine, she did her best given how she was feeling.
5.       Use ‘I’ statements rather that ‘you’ e.g. I get really annoyed when you throw your clothes on the floor and not, ‘you are always doing the same thing – throwing your clothes on the floor’.
6.       Give the child age appropriate responsibilities and levels of independence and decision making responsibilities. This helps the child to develop their sense of self, while all the time checking back with the parent.
7.       While the child need boundaries rules and consistency, don’t be too annoyed with her when she gets things wrong. She is learning.
8.       Also think well of yourself and your partner, make sure she hears you compliment each other.
9.       It is good for her when she hears you, as a parent, take pride in a job that you have well done.
10.   Avoid ‘shoulds’ or ‘could haves’.
11.   Accept her judgement. E.g.,  if she feels bad because someone is mean to her, that is how she feels. Better to explore this with her, such as by asking why she feels this way, than to dispute how she feels.
12.   Explore her negative sense of self with her. See below for an example of how to this :-

I am useless at swimming.
What makes you say that?
I can’t breathe properly when I am doing the breast stroke.
Ok not yet, but you can do the leg movement and the arm movement and given your body weight, you are doing very well
I suppose that is true, the other children in the class are bigger than me.

Generally in the process of teasing this out with the child, the child will realise where her potential is and as a result that she is not so bad after all. It may be that she realises that she is better at some other activity rather than swimming and that is okay.

Optimum emotional and cognitive development of a child occurs in a family environment. The family is best placed to create support  and love, promote hope, tolerate pain and generate positive thinking.

Remember change will happen when a child becomes what she is and not when she tries to become what she is not.

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