From a very early age children start forming an image of themselves that will shape their ability to cope with life’s rollercoaster ride. Here’s how to help your child build a positive self-image.
Everyone goes through their share of ups and downs in life, so good self esteem is worth its weight in gold. It helps you bounce back when times are tough.
Poor self esteem can be shattering, negatively affecting performance at work or school, undermining relationships, causing illness and making it difficult to communicate with others.
Fortunately, parents can help their children build a positive self image which makes them more resilient adults.
Establishing self esteem starts in early childhood ... toddlers look in the mirror and discover who they are. As children grow older, others give them messages about who they are—“he’s got freckles”; “she’s fat”; “he’s short”; “she’s pretty”. These messages can raise self esteem or lower it.Later, messages about a child’s character and abilities appear—“he’s dumb”; “she’s lazy”; “he’s naughty”; “she’s a nerd”.
More than anyone else, parents influence the way children think about themselves. So it is important for parents to monitor their language and actions to ensure they’re not giving children negative messages.
Using negative and derogatory words when your child is behaving in a way you don’t like should be directed at the behaviour, not the child. You need to help shape your child’s self image while disciplining him for inappropriate behaviour.
Children can get messages from themselves. They feel positive when they succeed at a task or activity, but not when they fail. The message can be as simple as “I can do this” or “I’m hopeless at this”.
Little by little children choose to do things that make them feel successful and avoid things that make them feel hopeless.
When too many messages say you are hopeless and unlovable, you begin to believe it.
Parents should top up the good messages children have about themselves so bad messages do not take hold. This will help them bounce back easily when self esteem is low.
Life-long strategies can be put in place to encourage self esteem.
Teenagers start losing confidence as their bodies change and they turn to peers, rather than parents, for acceptance. But the messages peers give each other can be very hurtful, so teenagers try to conform to the latest trends to re-build their self esteem. For parents, the basic strategies you use with young children still apply but it’s often difficult to find appropriate positive language.
Give them respect and admiration, and top them up with messages of love and acceptance as often as you can.