A child’s self-esteem is the foundation for the future. Their ability to develop relationships, conduct themselves with confidence and have a better understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses is established through their self-esteem. How does a child develop self-esteem, and how do we as parents know if our kids have enough as they grow older?
“Self-esteem and self-worth are very similar,” said Kathryn Owens, M.D., pediatrician at Norton Children’s Hospital Medical Associates – Brownsboro. “For most of us, including children, our self-esteem can change from day to day but continues to grow and develop from infancy through adulthood.”
Dr. Owens explains that once we become adults, it is harder to make changes to how we see and define ourselves. So working on your child’s self-esteem even in infancy and building it as the child grows to adulthood are important.
“Self-esteem starts with the concept of success following effort and persistence,” Dr. Owens said. “This is the try, fail, try again, fail again and then finally succeed model in which they will develop their own capabilities. At the same time, your child is creating a self-concept based on interactions with other people who are supporting them along the way, such as parents, grandparents, teachers, extended family and friends.”
Dr. Owens encourages parents and caregivers to promote healthy self-esteem by showing encouragement in multiple areas and not focusing, for example, on tests or school exams.
“When the encouragement is focused on one particular area, your child may begin to associate self-worth with just that accomplishment, and only see themselves as successful as their school work,” she said.
As our children become pre-teens, appearance may become more of a focal point. Dr. Owens reminds parents to be supportive but also continue to spread the focus across different aspects of life.
“It is important to keep a healthy balance and to recognize your child for all of their abilities, even the ones that are a struggle,” Dr. Owens said.
To help parents and their children navigate through pivotal developmental years, Norton Healthcare offers a series of “Parent Talk” classes. The next class is “Girl Talk” for moms and daughters ages 11 and older. Dr. Owens is the guest speaker and will share information on building self-esteem, factors that affect self-esteem, how to recognize low self-esteem and how to have healthy self-esteem.