We have all heard that having a healthy level of self-esteem is one of those personal qualities that is good and healthy for us. Self-esteem is often described as the way in which one sees themselves, and how they see their value, worth, and personal ability. It is often something associated with self-confidence and competency as well.
Self-esteem, however, seems to be one of those qualities that requires balance. Too little self-esteem and we are at risk for negative outcomes that impact our physical and mental health, while too much, and we are at risk for having less or even little regard for others. For those that have children, or those that spend time around children as an influence, you likely want the children in your life to have this positive self-esteem themselves. Yet, knowing this and achieving this can be quite different. So, for today’s blog we will be looking at self-esteem regarding young children, and three specific ways to assist them in developing healthy, authentic self-esteem.
Tip #1 Being Aware and Present: Honoring the Relationship
From birth, children are wired to connect with those around them, particularly their parents or caregivers. They are seeking connection and attaching to others which can lie at the root of self-esteem development. When children’s basic needs are not only met, but they are also seen, heard, and attended to emotionally, their capacity for self-esteem building is greater. There is no time like the now to begin growing in your ability to be present. According to Dan Siegel, who wrote the book, Parenting From the Inside Out, when we ourselves are present with children, they themselves are able to experience themselves in the moment more easily. This ability to be present can improve self-esteem in an individual of any age because it can remove you from the dwellings of past or future regrets, worries, or fears.
Those of you who are around children know that we cannot completely control what children do, say, think, or feel in any given moment. Yet, they often, especially when young, are watching those around them as a way to figure out the world. As an adult influence, we are modeling how to interact with ourselves, others, and the world. We can model self-compassion and kindness toward ourselves as a way to teach the same skill in a child. This is all a part of our relationship with others.
Tip #2 Get Comfortable with Failure: Success is Not the Answer
Something that will always be true about all humans is that each of us will fail. Children fail. Adults fail. And not just sometimes, but all throughout our lives we have moments of failure. It is how we can learn, grow, and develop, but it can certainly be an area that impacts self-esteem. Childhood is a time where success and failure happen A LOT. As parents and influencers of children, it is our job to get comfy with the discomfort that comes with watching those we love fail. Giving over-praise, inaccurate compliments (according to the receiver), and being told one did great when they know they didn’t, are things to steer away from. Rather, in order to be a self-esteem booster, it is important to LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY despite success or failure. Children need to know they are loved, cared for, accepted, and that they have worth and value that is not tied to their achievements. Imperfection can be allowed and welcome.
Tip #3 Support individuality (Unconditional Love)
Supporting individuality is a form of accepting and loving a child the way they are. Going beyond success and failure as mentioned above, this is in the vein of the whole person that makes up the child. We all have many components of ourselves that are unique to us. Self-esteem can be positively influenced when valuing your child’s uniqueness. Who is your kid? What do they like to do? How do they like to dress? Do you allow them freedom to express their individual self as they are (at fitting times of course!)? Allowing space for self-expression and loving the being that is, can open the door to healthy self-esteem development. Often children, or even adult children, can experience low self-esteem and worth when they do not believe that their parents or others support or are interested in their individual self. When any of us know that someone loves and cares about us, quirks and warts and all, we are more likely to blossom into accepting ourselves.
Implementing a new practice of any kind or shifting how we interact with others takes time. Be patient with yourself, and know that if you yourself struggle with self-esteem issues it can be even more difficult to model healthy self-esteem. This is all okay, and it is important to see change as a journey. As quoted from Eileen Kennedy-Moore, “Real self-esteem isn’t about believing we are special or wonderful. Real self-esteem means being able to let go of the question Am I good enough?”
You are good enough.