No parent wants to know that their child feels bad about themselves or suffers with low self-esteem. As a parent, it’s natural for us to feel responsible when our child seems to be struggling or having a really hard time feeling good about him/herself. We may find ourselves doing whatever we can to ensure that our child is happy, successful and experiences a sense of belonging. However, it’s even more powerful to provide them with the tools he/she needs to develop and maintain healthy self-esteem over time.
Self-esteem is all about how someone feels about themselves. Simply put, people who have high self-esteem feel good about themselves, while those with low self-esteem feel inadequate, as if they are not good enough. As shocking as it may seem, this applies to children as well.
Low self-esteem may begin when a child has had an experience that’s made them doubt themselves or their abilities, or perhaps someone said or did something (intentional or not) that led the child to believe that they are not worthy, like getting reprimanded at every little mistake, or getting a smack, or beating from parents or teacher. Over time, the child not only believes that he/she is flawed, unlovable or “not enough”, but the child begins to prove this to him/herself over and over again when faced with new situations or experiences, like a self fulfilling prophecy. This creates a vicious cycle that cements this low self-esteem into the child’s conscious and hence creating negative impact on many areas of the child’s life. It can affect friendships, academics and overall motivation. As a parent, we have the perfect opportunity, and it is our duty to support our child in developing a high level of self-esteem, and teach them to love themselves and be proud of what they do, each and every day.
One of the indicators of low self-esteem in children is negative self talk. Negative self-talk can be picked up in everyday simple conversations. Like when a child says things like, “I can’t,” “I don’t know how,” “It’s too hard,” “No one likes me,” “I’m not good at anything” and other such similar self derogatory phrases, then it is a sign that he/she might be experiencing low self-esteem. A child may feel that he/she doesn’t have any control over their thoughts or the words they speak. But, we as parents can teach them that, yes, in fact, they do have control of their thoughts and words. This can be a powerful lesson, as he/she learns how to shift from negative process to a more positive way of thinking and speaking. Demonstrate for your child how to begin using positive phrases such as:
“I know how to…”
“I’m really good at…”
“I can do this”
“I choose to…”
When a child engages in negative self-talk, encouraging him/her to use positive self-talk instead will improve the way he/she feels about the situation. Help your child to see the good in a situation and to focus on what is working, the positive aspect as opposed to what isn’t working, the negative aspect. Pin up some of these positive phrases around your home as visual reminders to point thoughts and words in a more powerful direction.