SELF-ESTEEM AND CHILDREN
Professor Emeritus, Human Development
University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension
YOU WILL LEARN:
- what self-esteem is.
- why self-esteem is important.
- how to help children feel good about themselves.
Developing a clearer understanding of self-esteem and what
affects its development should help you:
- help children feel good about themselves, and
- think more highly of yourself.
You are a very special person. There is only one you in the
world. What has happened to you from birth to now and your heredity
have made you what you are today.
Getting to know yourself will help you to help children feel and
think they are basically good people. Children are not born feeling
good or bad about themselves. They learn this from what happens
to them. Self-esteem is the pride that a person has in himself
A person with high self-esteem feels worthwhile (good and capable).
People with low self-esteem think they are not worth-while and
that what they do is not important to others or to themselves.
WHY IS SELF-ESTEEM IMPORTANT?
How you feel about yourself affects how you act. How children
feel about themselves affects the way they act. How you feel and
think about yourself and how children feel and think about themselves
can change each day. What happens to children before they arrive
at your home will affect the way they act in your home. So, take
time to listen to the children or their parents when they arrive
at your home.
SELF-ESTEEM AND CHILDREN
Some people are very important in a child's life. Who are the
important people in the lives of the children you care for? They
usually include Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, and grandparents.
Care providers, teachers, 4-H or other youth leaders, and television
stars are also important.
Listen for clues that will tell you what kind of relationships
your day care children have with these people. Listen to them
when they are involved in imagination/pretend play, games, arguments,
or are just talking with other people.
People who are important to children have a great affect on the
development of self-esteem in the children.
CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN WITH HIGH SELF-ESTEEM
Most of the time, children with high self-esteem will:
- make friends easily.
- show enthusiasm for new activities.
- be 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.
- be happy, fully of energy, and talk to others without much
CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN WITH LOW SELF-ESTEEM
Most of the time, children with low self-esteem will say things
- "I can't do anything well."
- "I know I can't do it."
- "I know that I will fail."
- "I don't like me. I wish I were someone else."
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP BUILD HIGH SELF-ESTEEM
- Praise each child's successes (even very small ones). Praise
each child who tries hard.
- Give sincere affection. Let children know that they are loved
- Show interest in each child's activities, projects, or problems.
- Tell children what to do instead of what not to do. This
prepares them for what to do.
Instead of: "Don't throw the ball."
Say: "Roll the ball on the floor."
Instead of: "Don't squeeze the kitten."
Say: "Hold the kitten gently."
- Let children know that mistakes are a natural part of growing
up. Everyone (including adults) makes mistakes.
- Try to ignore temper tantrums and other negative behavior
as much as possible.
- Show appreciation when children cooperate, help you, say
kind things to other children, obey the rules, and do other positive
- Remember that learning new skills takes time and practice.
Children do not learn new skills all at once.
- Respond affectionately when children behave well. Tell children
what you like about their behavior.
- Let children know that you believe in them and expect them
to do well.
- Accept and respect each child's family and culture.
- Provide activities that your day care children are likely
to succeed at.
- When a child misbehaves, separate the misbehavior from the
child. For example, say "I don't like it when you throw
toys, but I still like you. I know you will do better tomorrow."
Let the child know you believe in him or her.
ACTIONS THAT MAY LOWER CHILDREN'S SELF-ESTEEM
Try to avoid the following actions because they may lower children's
self-esteem. This can be very harmful.
- expecting too much or too little from children.
- yelling at or criticizing children, especially in front of
- criticizing children more often than praising or showing
- calling children clumsy, thoughtless, stupid, lazy, etc.
- telling children who have made mistakes that they are failures.
- overprotecting or neglecting children.
REMEMBER. . .
When you understand and accept yourself, it helps you understand
and accept others. The way people who are important to children
treat them and what they say will raise or lower the children's
self-esteem. You and parents are the most important people in
your day care children's
lives. You are very important in forming their self-esteem. Children
with low self-esteem need your love and attention the most.
RESOURCES TO EXPLORE
*Encouraging Positive Self-Concepts in Children* by Judith
Myers -Walls, Purdue University Cooperative Extension, West Lafayette,
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the
National Extension Service
Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission
is granted to reproduce
these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only
(not for profit beyond the cost of
reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment
and this notice is
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child
Care - NNCC.
Nuttall, P. (1991). *Self-esteem and children*. (Family Day
series). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts.
Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved
by the author .
COPYRIGHT PERMISSION ACCESS
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003-7605
PHONE:: (413) 549-8800
FAX:: (413) 549-6337
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Available only on the
Level 2 - Cooperative Extension Systems: Universities of
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 14K or 5 pages
ENTRY DATE:: July 1995
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