Fostering the Development of Children’s Self-Esteem
Self esteem is…
- a person’s overall assessment of her or his personal adequacy or worth. (Weiten, 1998)
- feelings of self-worth stemming from the individual’s positive or negative beliefs about being valuable and capable.
- feeling good about yourself. It means liking yourself and being content with, and even proud of, who you are.(Hartley-Brewer, 2004)
- a feeling of pride in yourself.
Self-esteem is a popular term that tends to be used interchangeably with expressions such as self-confidence, self-assurance and self-respect. In this section, we consider self-esteem to be a blanket term for describing an inner belief that you are of value.
Self-esteem is nurtured through the ongoing commitment of parents to actively and accurately reflect children’s qualities and talents back to them. It means allowing the child appropriate levels of autonomy and self-determination to gradually form a view of themselves as capable, competent and important.
A child’s self-esteem is enhanced when parents:
- are quick to notice and praise good behaviour
- are verbally and physically loving
- give time and support and accept mistakes
- encourage talents and skills
- provide reliable/consistent relationships
- provide a consistent environment
- offer choice and scope for self-determination
- listen and treat the child fairly
- assume the chid is competent
Using praise — “coaching” vs. “cheerleading”
Most parents are intuitively aware that praising a child can have a positive impact on that child’s behaviour and self-perception. Nonetheless, there are a number of ways in which parents can modify their praise to make it more effective.
Some authors have referred to the use of effective praise as “coaching” as opposed to the use of broader, less specific praise, which has been referred to as “cheerleading”.
Enthusiastically and broadly praises all positive behaviour:
(eg. “Good boy!”)
Provides specific feedback on what behaviour is being praised
(eg. “Well done, Connor. Look how neatly you’ve coloured the dinosaur.”)
Note: Both styles of praise (cheerleading and coaching) will have a positive impact on a child’s sense of mastery and achievement. The coaching style, however, provides the child with additional information aimed at fostering self-reflection, self-appraisal and problem solving.