THE debate continues as to whether children are born with high self-esteem or whether they just learn it. But one thing is certain, and that is the fact that children with low self-esteem are more prone to peer pressure, even if they are just four years old.
"When you have high self-esteem, it means you know you are a worthwhile person, someone worthy of love. You respect yourself and who you are," explained adolescent health counsellor Althea Bailey. "Positive self-esteem makes it less important what others think and say about you, while people with negative self-esteem are usually unassertive and live to please others. The most important reason for ensuring that children develop a positive self-image is that it serves as an effective barrier to negative influences and behaviours," she said.
She noted, too, that, "Self-esteem results from thoughts and feelings that may be positive or negative. The more positive feelings lead to higher self-esteem while the more negative feelings lead to lower self-esteem. High self-esteem is also different from pride or being too conceited. People with high self-esteem like themselves, but they don't think they are perfect or better than other people."
Here are some ways you as a parent can build high self-esteem in your young child:
1. Shower your child with love. Children flourish in an environment where they are accepted and loved. Don't be afraid to give plenty of cuddles and kisses and remind your child at all times that you love them. Your child's confidence will gradually develop under your constant love and devotion.
2. Spend time with your child. Even with a busy job, you should still strive to set aside specific time to give your child your full attention. This will help to assure them that they are important and valuable. Spend time to answer their questions even while taking in your favourite Lifetime movie.
3. Affirm your child. Let your child know they are gifted and talented. Do not put them down if they are not performing great academically, but encourage them to do their best. Let them know how proud you are of them for even their smallest accomplishments.
4. Support healthy explorations. A part of developing self-esteem is to explore and take risks. Although failure is a possibility, their social development would be stunted without experimentation. So if she/he wants to go on the slide or pour ketchup on their eggs, let them.
5. Be a positive role model. Be the person you want your child to be. If you lack confidence and don't know how to assert yourself in social situations, then don't be dismayed if your child becomes anti-social and shaky when around others.
6. Set boundaries for your child. Boundaries create security, so don't be afraid to set limits so your child can learn the importance of rules. When your child is allowed to get away with anything and flaunt the rules at home, then they will feel that they are allowed to get away with anything and might have difficulties adjusting in the outside world, where rules are expected to be followed.
7. Encourage your child to be independent. Allow your child to do things by themselves, so they can take pride in their abilities. Get a stool so she can wash her hands or brush her teeth by herself, for example.