We are slowly getting into the homestretch of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge and have reached the letter S. Once again – thanks for being with me on this journey. Today, let’s talk about S for Self. A sense of self starts developing in children between ages of 2 to 3. Their ability to think of themselves from the point of view of someone else is the start of development of self-concept. Young children’s self esteem is heavily influenced by parental attitude and behavior. Hence, parents have a very important role to play in developing their children’s self-worth, self-esteem and self-awareness all of which lead to self-confidence, self-love and self-care. Woah! That’s a lot of self!
I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of developing a strong sense of self worth in children. Children with lower self esteem will look at themselves more critically, will find it more difficult to deal with problems and will be more likely to fall prey to stress, anxiety and depression. They may hesitate to try new things, take risks and will usually take issues personally rather than look at situations in an objective way.
Below I am sharing thoughts on how to ensure that your children have a high sense of self worth and also instill in them the importance of self care and self love:
- Create a positive emotional bond from infancy: A positive and loving parent child attachment is at the crux of the development of a healthy sense of self. Developing a positive bond starts from birth. Slow down and tune into your baby, understand his reflexes and responses to sound, light and textures. Tune your behavior to his moods, needs and wants. Allow of a lot of hugging and kissing. Babies revel in physical show of love. Play with them, talk to them. All of these will go a long way in developing their sense of worth and a sense of security.
- Accept and respect them: children (even adults) need to feel loved and respected by their families, peers and community. We need to ensure non judgmental communication with them – shouldn’t always come across as pointing faults or correcting errors. We also need to accept them fully with their flaws and never make our love conditional to achieving or doing something. We need to let them know that we have their back always. Moreover, their mistakes or errors should be dealt with respectfully, with the help of honest feedback aiming for future improvements rather than berating past performance. Recognition of effort rather than result will help the child overpower their sense of failure, defeat, shame or guilt. Show trust in their capability. Another way of communicating respect is to value their thoughts and opinions. Many adults tend to brush off a child’s viewpoint very easily which gives the message that their view is not valued.
- Use positive language: be careful of the language you use when you talk to your children. Labeling them negatively (even in fun or out of love) could affect their self esteem negatively or even reinforce a negative behavior. Calling them lazy or dumb or naughty will only make matters worse. If you are discussing any negative traits of your kids, make sure you do that in private. Constant negative feedback or punitive measures will also decrease the sense of worth in a child.
- Give them challenging and meaningful tasks: a child’s sense of self worth will increase if he achieves or accomplishes something that was not easy. A sense of conquering a challenge will contribute much more to a child’s self esteem as compared to an easy task. Similarly, the more meaningful or useful a task, the more pleased a child will be doing it.
- Give them responsibilities and empower them: give your child a chance to show what she is capable of. Allow her to take on tasks and give her enough authority to make her own decisions. These tasks of course need to be age appropriate.
- Develop a positive body image: unfortunately, children’s impressions of body image are highly influenced by visuals from television, movies, and advertising. Body image becomes an important factor in determining self esteem as children move into adolescence. For instance, it is very important for teens to know how their peers perceive them. Children with low self esteem will typically assess themselves more critically and have a negative body image – it could be because they feel they have too much acne or that they are over weight or even underweight or not muscular enough and so on. As a parent we must continue to give our children positive messages – compliment them when they look nice but be sure to not put too much focus on looks (how pretty! How handsome!), keep reminding them that our work and behaviour is more important than how we look, use the issue of body image to promote healthy habits. Also be careful about not discussing people and their appearances in front of children (better not to do it at all).
- Instill the importance of self care: self care is an all encompassing term that includes physical, emotional, psychological and social aspects of an individual’s well being. We need to start telling children early on that self care is a choice every individual makes for themselves to engage in activities or cultivate habits that promote well being. In primary school children are taught about types of food and how each type contributes to their health. We need to keep reinforcing healthy meals, regular eating habits, exercise and so on from. If these become early habits, children are likely to continue to follow them as adults too.
To sum up, a strong sense of self is important and so is the ability to take care of oneself. As they say, put your own mask first in case of any emergency, it is important that we are physically and emotionally fit in order to take care of our loved ones. Do let me know what you think.
Read my other blogs on the series here: