Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Encouraging High Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is an integral part of your child’s development, as well as the basis for healthy social skills.

Self-esteem is defined as a person’s feeling of self-worth, or a person’s view of his or her competency. Children with high self-esteem feel substantial worth, and believe themselves to be good and capable. On the other hand, children with low self-esteem think they are useless and that others do not care how they behave and perform.

The role of healthy self-esteem cannot be stressed enough. How your child views his/her worth will play a role in how he/she performs in school, deals with mistakes and failures, motivates self, and interacts with peers.

In adolescence, your child’s self-esteem will influence his or her resistance to risky behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, drug use, and sex. While high self-esteem is associated with an overall sense of well-being during adolescence, low self-esteem is related to risk behaviors and negative developmental outcomes. For example, adolescents with low self-esteem are at high risk for attempting suicide. Studies have shown that adolescents with low self-esteem have elevated levels of suicidal ideation and negative expectations of the future.
According to research at the Florida State University, parents who have boys with low self-esteem at age 11 were 1.6 times more likely to meet the criteria for drug dependence nine years later than other children. These findings are a wake up call to parents and other adults who interact with children.

Characteristics of children with HIGH self-esteem:
 Make friends easily
 Show enthusiasm for new activities
 Are cooperative and follow age-appropriate rules
 Control their behavior
 Play by themselves and with other children
 Like to be creative and have their own ideas
 Are happy

Characteristics of children with LOW self-esteem:
 Don’t believe they can do things well
 Fear interactions with other children
 Don’t share ideas
 Are sad

Parents can help their children to build high self-esteem from a very early age. The simplest ways include: praising your child’s efforts and successes however small, providing warmth and affection, being supportive, showing interest in your child’s activities, using positive enforcement, and being patient when your child learns new skills.

Robert Brooks, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School, offers these strategies to parents to foster a healthy self-esteem:

1. Provide opportunities to make choices, decisions, and solve problems.
A belief that one has some control of their environment leads to high self-esteem.

2. Help develop responsibility and make a contribution.
Assuming responsibility that makes one feel capable and making a contribution boosts self-esteem.

3. Offer encouragement and positive feedback.
Self-esteem is nurtured when adults communicate appreciation and encouragement to children.

4. Help establish self-discipline.
Ability to reason and reflect on one’s behavior and its impact on others helps in developing a high self-esteem.

5. Teach to deal with mistakes and failure.
The fear of making mistakes and feeling embarrassed is a potent obstacle to challenges and taking appropriate risks, and thus achieving positive self-esteem.

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