Why Nurturing Self-Esteem in Children is Essential

Self-esteem is probably the most important aspect of a child’s wellbeing. If a person has a high sense of self-esteem, they are able to generally do better in life. If they have a true sense of who they are, if they believe in themselves and have a strong sense of their self-worth, then they are most likely a well-rounded and stable individual. Most children are born with a natural high level of self-esteem and feel confident in their abilities.1 However, this encouragement  is also something that comes from the people in their surroundings at a young age. Parents, family members, friends and teachers are all responsible for shaping the way a child sees themselves and others.

One of the seven well being aspects of One Goal’s Be a Star program is self-esteem. One Goal believe that a healthy level of self-esteem contributes to a successful education, as well as an overall sense of happiness. Some children have a lower sense of sense-esteem or don’t feel good about themselves. This may be due to not feeling liked by family or peer groups or being told by their parents or guardians that they aren’t good enough. Often, children who come from lower socioeconomic households don’t have a lot of self-esteem as there is not usually an importance placed on education or aspirations and goals. One Goal assists in children in building up their self-esteem so they have a positive self-image and are able to fulfil their potential.

Self-esteem directly impacts the way a child behaves on a day-to-day basis. It affects the way they interact with their peers, family and teachers. Children who have a lot of self-esteem are able to cope more with responsibilities and are better equipped to deal with issues such as peer pressure.1

 

How does self-esteem impact a child’s mental health?

Having a low sense of self-esteem is not considered a mental health condition, but the way a child feels about themselves can impact the way they feel on a mental and emotional level. A child with low self-esteem can experience depression and anxiety more than their peers who do have a healthy amount of self-esteem. If a child is experiencing either of these mental illnesses, it can turn into a vicious cycle, as perhaps low self-esteem was a trigger for them to become ill, but the stigma around these mental health issues can make them feel even worse about themselves, causing them to feel like failures. If poor self-esteem continues during the childhood and adolescence of a person, it can lead to behaviours such as drug addiction. Many drug addicts use substances to help ease the negative feelings they have about themselves.2

 

How does self-esteem impact a child’s education?

If a student has a low sense of self-esteem, it can have a detrimental impact on their education. A lack of self-esteem can make a child feel less passionate about learning. It can dampen their desire to learn, to focus, to perform well and to interact with others. A child with no self-esteem is not tempted to take risks or challenges as they feel they will fail.3 If a child is experiencing learning difficulties due to their lack of self-esteem, they can either be accepted by their peers or become the butt of cruel jokes, which worsens the self-esteem.4

 

Tips to help children in the classroom have a healthy sense of self-esteem:

  • Look for signs – As a teacher, it is important to look out for a child who is displaying self-defeating behaviours. This can include quitting, not trying, bullying other children and acting silly. These are all strategies to mask how insecure and vulnerable the child is feeling.5
  • Encourage exploration of interests – If a child in your class shows interest in a particular subject or interest, encourage them explore that fully and if they do, ensure they follow through. They will feel a sense of accomplishment at the end and that raises a child’s confidence ten-fold.6
  • Praise, but not too much – It is important to praise a child if they do something positive, but do not go over the top. A child will know when they have worked hard and been successful and when they haven’t.4
  • Don’t correct them mid-sentence – One thing that some teachers find challenging is knowing when to speak up about correcting a student. If a child is speaking and makes, say, a grammatical mistake, don’t interrupt the child mid-sentence to correct them, especially in front of a group of people, as this can harm their confidence. If the child repeatedly makes the same mistake, take them aside and gently explain their error.7
  • Give students choices – Even though children cannot make all the decisions when it comes to learning inside the classroom, as a teacher, you can give them the opportunity to choose what they learn. By making decisions like that, it will help build up a child’s self-worth. A good activity is to write a list of topics on the board and have children choose which one they want to learn about.7
  • Support them during disappointment – Help children see the silver lining in a disappointing situation. In life, sometimes we fail and when a child feels they have failed, their mindset automatically changes to ‘I can’t’ or ‘I’m no good’. Make suggestions for how it can go differently next time and help them to see a situation in a positive light and most importantly to not take the situation personally.8

A healthy amount of confidence and self-esteem for a child can help shape them into a confident and positive young person. Children need to feel loved and cared for and from there, their self-esteem will naturally grow.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.livestrong.com/article/171097-how-to-build-self-confidence-in-girls/
  2. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/July-2016/Why-Self-Esteem-Is-Important-for-Mental-Health
  3. http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/shore/shore059.shtml
  4. https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/empowering-your-child/self-esteem/the-importance-of-self-esteem-for-kids-with-learning-and-attention-issues
  5. https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/teachers-foster-self-esteem-in-children/
  6. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-build-your-childs-self-esteem/
  7. http://www.teachhub.com/teaching-strategies-build-student-confidence
  8. https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/enewsletter/tips-build-their-confidence

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