The earliest roots of self-esteem come from primary caregiver/parent-child interactions. Warmth and accurate empathic responses impact on brain structure and shape it differently than does a less affectionate environment. This is the foundation stone of building our child’s positive self-esteem.
The great task is almost entirely in the hands of early care givers. A person can be blessed with superior intelligence and talent but if he or she lacks self-esteem, this can be an obstacle in achieving success in a job, a relationship and in virtually every area of life. The following are some suggestions for this task at hand:
Children 0-8 years:
- Warmth: Successful early bonding is associated with later ability to learn concepts, greater curiosity and emotional intelligence, all building blocks for resilient children.
- Emotional Literacy: that is, labelling feelings. Help children identify feelings and take constructive actions to resolve them.
- Proper Praise: When parents reward children regularly or too often, they lose interest in the job. Parents must understand when and how to praise children in order to build perseverance. Perseverance, which is the ability to stick with frustration, is a necessary component of solid self-esteem.
Children 9-16 years:
- Thinking: Teach children to think about the impact of their behaviours on themselves and others. Help them to identify inner experiences and problem-solve, e.g. (a) What do you think it will be like? and (b) How do you think your actions will make others feel?
- Lessen Criticism: g. (a) Avoid comparisons –comparing your child to yourself, other people, siblings, and (b) Do not “assume” – do not try to read their minds, or assume you know how they feel. This type of miscommunication leads to resentment and frustration. Older children will then clam up and develop a negative mind-set about communicating with you.
- Compliment kids on their unique style: Older children have difficulty with body image, low self-esteem and inadequacies. Use questions to get them to reflect on their looks, e.g. (a) What are you trying to say? and (b) Who are you trying to be like?