Child Self Esteem - A Byproduct of a Parent's Love and Sensitivity

Child Self Esteem - Parenting Question:

How do you boost a 5 year old girl's confidence and self esteem, very shy child and holding back at school.

Although this is a one line question, there are a lot of issues contained in it. First of all, shyness does not necessarily indicate that a child has low self esteem. Your child may be shy by nature or she may be mistrustful of people due to encounters with caretakers, adult authorities or peers that have made her tentative or afraid of other people. Your daughter also may feel uncomfortable or unsafe in her environment.

If your daughter is shy, you can help her come out of her shell a bit by encouraging her to form relationships with others. Arrange for a play date after school with a friend she can play with one on one. Volunteer your time in her classroom and try to determine which situations seem to precipitate her shyness. Enlist the teacher's help in helping your daughter to join in group activities and feel comfortable with self expression.

If low self esteem is the problem, you need to take an entirely different tact. If you do a search on the internet, you'll find many experts who talk about building child self esteem, but self esteem is not something that can be built directly. It is a by-product of different sets of experiences and interactions and the self perceptions the child forms as a result. These include, but are not limited to the child's positive attachment to her parents, whether the child feels accepted and cherished for who she is (rather than what she does) and whether she feels seen and heard by her caretakers. Such experiences with primary caregivers leave a child feeling empowered and give rise to an overall feeling of safety and confidence.

child self esteem

Some people associate child self esteem with achievement, but this is not always the case. Consider the overachiever whose obsession with perfection is a cover for low self esteem.

Although a parent may love her child, she may unwittingly devalue her child self-esteem in the way she treats her when the child makes a mistake. For instance, if a parent yells at her daughter for a small error or infraction, rather than use this as an opportunity to teach a caring lesson, the child may end up feeling that she is stupid and unworthy. It is the additive effect of small, daily insults to the child's character and a parent's lack of understanding about the nature of child development that often leave a child with low self esteem, the remnants of which can last a lifetime.

It is up to the parents to help the child shape her self perceptions and correct gross misperceptions. As I said earlier, this takes place slowly over time. For more about connecting with and truly engaging your child, see my book, Keepers of the Children. In it, you will learn how to create a loving connection with your child and learn how to guide the unfolding of your child's unique strengths (which naturally leads to a sense of meaning and self esteem). It's a way of parenting that is fulfilling for the parent and will teach you much about yourself.


Parenting Magazine

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