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When does a child start to develop self-esteem?

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The development of self esteem starts at the infant stage, when a child develops strong attachments to the adults who are caring for them and who are responsible for their safety and basic needs. This is also when a child begins to formulate a sense of trust for those around them. When a parent provides a child with what they need, a healthy attachment is formed and this acts as the foundation for the child feeling secure and understanding that he or she can count on adults to provide them with what they need in life. As children get older and start interacting with other children in a school setting, the development of self esteem is then also influenced by their sense of acceptance and belonging in a group.

Parents/Guardians play the most direct role, particularly when children are very young, in nurturing a positive self esteem. They do this by continually showing affection, being supportive, and demonstrating acceptance of a child’s individual strengths and challenges. In addition, guardians support this development by establishing a healthy, consistent and clearly defined routine; establishing limits; and clearly identifying expectations. For example, consistent meal times, naps and bedtime, a consistent bedtime routine; and regularly scheduled family time for fun activities together all contribute to the child being able to trust or rely on their surroundings. As the child grows, guaridans can nurture the development of positive self esteem by trying new things together as a family. This allows children to see the value in attempting new activities, expanding their horizons, meeting new people and experiencing success.

Many people believe praise is the key to children feeling good about themselves. Certainly, making children feel great about taking the initiative to follow expectations (being polite, sharing with others, respecting other family members, making good decisions) is part of the package. However, an over abundance of praise is not always the best way to build self esteem in young children. Setting limits, establishing expectations and being honest with children challenges them to develop self discipline and to think critically. These skills contribute to increasing self esteem because the children are learning skills that will enable them to be an interactive and contributing member of their community as they grow older and begin to interact with different groups of people.