Updated: Oct 5, 2019
Recently, my 6 year old son developed a case of low self esteem. It was the first time I had to stop and think, "What have I done to allow my son to feel these things about himself and his body?" I've heard him say that his belly is too big and his cheeks are fat. He may be a thicker kid, but he is gifted in his athletic abilities. For example: He attended his very first flag football meet and on the same day was advanced to play with the older kids based on his skills. As a tot, strangers would constantly comment on his natural ability with any sports ball he picked up. The kid is amazing.
So, why does my child speak so poorly about himself? He doesn't hear me say those things about myself and I couldn't quite understand where he would pick up these feelings about himself that seem to feed his emotions negatively.
This prompted me to do some research on low self esteem.
After reading multiple psychology and parenting articles, it suddenly made sense. It also shed some light on past behavior of my oldest child as well. It made me realize I had contributed to my children's lack of confidence and some negative behaviors. I can check at least a few of the boxes in the following list:
CAUSES OF LOW SELF ESTEEM:
Constant Criticism; Hearing whatever they did wasn't good enough
Uninvolved Parents/Caregivers ; Achievements have gone unrecognized
Parental Fights; Children may internalize the negative feelings from their parents fighting because they may feel as though they caused it.
Bullying; If bullying isn't addressed by parents or is downplayed as an insignificant event, it can make the bullying feel magnified and the child may feel let down.
Bullying with Overly Supportive Parents; On the flip side to this one is if that overly and indiscriminately supportive parents can leave a child feeling unprepared when faced with cruelness.
Academic Challenges; Falling behind in school, feeling "stupid". Not having someone step in to see what type of accommodations a child needs to thrive.
Trauma; Sexual, physical, emotional abuse with a child feeling as though they are to blame for what happened.
Society and Media; Unrealistic expectations of beauty and thinness, constant comparisons and feeling like they can't measure up to what's out there.
I could tic a box for being both an overly supportive parent and sometimes preoccupied, especially as a work at home mom. I overly support by telling my kids I love everything they do and by being their #1 fan. I recently had my 8 year old say to me, "Mom, why do you say you like EVERYTHING I do?! You need to stop and only say it if you really mean it. I know this picture isn't that great!" That broke my heart. I never looked at it as lying, I genuinely wanted my kids to be proud of their own work. I never thought that my words would start to seem empty if I said it "too much".
Here's more on how to Praise Your Child The Right Way
How to Foster Confidence and Raise Self Esteem
Create a loving and positive home environment
Listen attentively to your child and reassure them its okay to experience strong emotions; Let them know you are here for them and offer an effective solution when possible.
Parents should eliminate any unnecessary stress and anxiety and minimize the need for perfectionism or for having their child reach an obscenely high standard.
Eliminate comparisons among siblings as comparing can lead to sibling rivalry.
You can create a sense of belonging by hanging your child's portraits and artwork.
Be a role model; Have a good attitude and exude confidence.
Celebrate their successes at home and be excited to tell others in front of them.
Let them make decisions for themselves; choosing what what to wear for the day, cereal or bagel for breakfast, etc.
Provide your child with opportunities to learn new things, from easy to more challenging. Allow them space to explore and try it their way-don't control the project.
Positive Affirmations; I have a list of positive affirmations for my children to read. With their own hand held mirror, they can read themselves positive things such as, "I love my body", "I'm a good friend", or "If I fall, I will get back up and try again!"
I put this in the bathroom, since they seem to do a lot of talking, singing, etc, while in the bathroom. It's a private place for them to explore this exercise with themselves.
Chores can help teach responsibility, how to set and achieve goals, and can allow a child the opportunity to feel they are making a valuable contribution to the household.
Give them special tasks to do. "Will you be my special helper and help me with dinner"
When you're upset, make sure they know you are upset with their actions/choices and not with who they are.
Always show you love them. Some physical affection can go a long way. High fives, a pat on the back, plenty of hugs.
I'm more careful with my words and sincerely think before I react when I'm parenting my kids. I've noticed a softening among my 6 year old who held onto so many strong emotions. I pray that I can provide the tools and environment necessary for them to bloom and blossom into confident young men.
If you're seeing signs of low self esteem in your child, reevaluate the areas that may be affecting your child. By implementing these solutions and changing some ways you communicate with your child, you'll be back on track to raising a confident and happy child in no time!