A child’s sense of self-esteem is fundamentally the result of how they perceive themselves, their abilities, and their confidence in their ability to navigate their environment. It is also greatly influenced by the perceptions and expectations of important people in their life, starting with parents and family members, and extending to teachers, coaches, schoolmates, and other adult role models.
Children need to feel a sense of security – about themselves and their future.
They need to feel a sense of belonging – to feel accepted and loved by the important people in their life.
They need to feel a sense of purpose – to have activities and goals through which they can channel their energy, activities that they enjoy, and environments in which to feel successful, feel proud, and to receive positive feedback from peers and adult role models.
They need to feel a sense of confidence and competence – that they can approach problems on their own, with increasing responsibility and expectations as they mature, with encouragement and patience from caregivers to allow them the opportunity to try it themselves.
They need to feel a sense of importance, trust and responsibility – allowing them to show what they are capable of with decreasing oversight from parents, giving praise for their effort and for their improvement in planning, creativity, skill, knowledge, and perseverance, and not just the final outcome.
They need to feel comfortable and accepting of mistakes – with feedback that mistakes are an important part of living and learning, that they are inevitable, and that they can seek help from others without embarrassment or shame.
They need to feel “family self-esteem” – to feel proud of their family, and to feel involved and essential, by participating as a family in community activities, by tracing their family ancestry, or by helping to care for extended family members. Good family self-esteem is built with each member focusing on each other’s strengths, avoiding excess criticism, respecting differences, showing affection, prioritizing time together at home, during holidays, award ceremonies, recitals, and other proud life moments.
Sky Pittson, MD, August 5, 2022