Published: 11/12/2014 - Updated: 01/02/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Developing personal worth is one of the basic pillars of maturity and development in children and youth. Having a high self-esteem helps the child to perform better, to be more sociable and responsible, they learn quicker and their emotions mature.
You must know the basic keys for building strong foundations of self-esteem. Here’s a list of tips and advice that will undoubtedly help direct you in such an important task.
How can I tell if a child or youth has low self-esteem?
- They reprimand or judge themselves, saying things like “I’m an idiot”, “I can’t do it well”, “it always happens to me”, etc.
- They think that in order for you to love them they need to be the best and number one in everything, which increases their levels of self-demand. They are very competitive and never feel satisfied with their work.
- They are afraid of messing up or doing things “bad“.
- The trust very little in themselves, they do not openly express what they feel, they are timid or insecure and retract when they want to participate in something they like.
- In inhibited in contact with others.
- Tends to be in a bad mood, sad or apathetic.
- Frequently gets angry when people talk about their “mistakes”.
What you should avoid in order to raise self-esteem
1. Avoid criticizing and/or judging with words like “you’re an idiot”, “you don’t know how to do things”, “you’re irresponsible”, “you’re selfish”, etc.
2. Don’t ridicule them nor call them out on things.
3. Don’t threaten them with phrases like: “If you don’t get good grades I’m going to tell your father not to let you….”, or “If you don’t clean up your room, I won’t let you leave”, “I told you that if you didn’t behave I was going to punish you”, etc.
4. Do not talk down to them with phrases like “If you don’t study, you’re never going to make any money”, “If you don’t do your homework you’re going to be stupid”, “If you don’t help me clean up, no one is going to help you when you want it”, etc.
5. Don’t speak to them with a demanding voice like “Go to your room”, “You need to say hi”, etc.
6. Don’t allow them to throw fits wherever, nor allow them to raise their voice.
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7. Don’t concentrate solely on the “bad” things they do, like airing their dirty laundry, bad grades, a messy room, their bad behavior, how badly they behaved with their family members, etc.
8. Do not shelter them. This means that you don’t let them experience things that mature them through consequences. In other words, don’t stop them from making efforts, sacrifices, tears (when necessary), anger, etc. Try to avoid thinking that “it’s bad for them” if they get angry or cry. Experiences that make us angry or that move us are necessary in order to mature emotionally. It’s best to teach them to understand what they feel.
What to do to strengthen their self-esteem:
1. Rather than criticizing them, observe their potential. All children are capable of developing new abilities if you give them the support and motivation necessary. Rather than saying: “You’re an idiot”, say: “I believe that you can do it, so we’re going to find a way.” Rather than saying: “You’re so selfish”, it’s better to help them share. For example: “How would you feel if you wanted your friend’s toy and he didn’t lend it to you?”; How do you think your brother felt when you didn’t help him?” etc.
2. Rather than ridiculing them, it’s better to talk to them in a friendly tone, alone; avoid pointing out their mistakes in front of friends or family members.
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3. You should avoid any and all threats, which only indicate that the adult has already lost control over the situation and now needs greater authority to control their behavior. In this case, there is nothing better than placing limits and making agreements. Rather than saying “if you don’t do your homework, I’ll tell your father”, it’s better to say: “I think you’re already responsible for your work. So, as soon as you finish your homework, you can turn on the TV.” You need to give the child or youth responsibility from early on by making agreements, and not punishments, and you should respect the limits agreed upon. For example, if they don’t have their homework ready by the time they’re supposed to, they can’t turn on the TV. You also shouldn’t scold them, just point out the agreement: “I see that you chose not to watch your favorite show. If you hurry up, you might be able to watch a bit of TV”. Agreements stimulate responsibility and autonomy in children and youth, which is basic for forming self-esteem.
4. Rather than condemning, ask for help. All children and youth love to feel like they cooperate in their environment and help with what they know and however they can. Rather than saying to them: “There will be a day when nobody helps you, because you didn’t help me”, it’s better to say: “I would love for you to help me, I really need it”.
5. Rather than talking to them in an imperative and authoritarian tone, it’s better to make agreements, like in the last example. For example: rather tan saying: “Clean up your room”, which only makes the youth feel like an object or a robot that has been programmed with orders, it’s best to say: “I think you already know you need to clean your room. When you finish, then we can talk about permission to do what you want”.
6. If they throw a fit, don’t let them do it all over the house. Take them to their room and tell them that when they feel more vented, then you can talk. If they want to leave the room, take them back and ask them to calm down so you can talk.
7. Don’t be on them all day about everything they need to do and fix. It’s best to focus on their potential and to highlight what they did do or what advances they have made.
8. Let them solve their own issues and confront their anger, challenges, problems, sadness, etc. You can guide the friendly, but do no overprotect them.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 01/02/2018
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