REFLECTIONS ON EARLY CHILDHOOD: How to Build Healthy Self Esteem in Children

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The article I read this morning, sort of ties into the one I wrote about the other day about letting your children fail. Letting them fail is a good time to work on self-esteem issues as well.

Sasha Emmons, the author of the article I’m currently referencing titled “How to Build Healthy Self Esteem in Children” says “In trying to boost kids’ self-esteem, we may be tearing it down.”. This is so true.

“Here goes: Millions of American children (including very possibly your own) have a warped idea of what they can do and little concept of what real confidence feels like. And despite only our best intentions, experts say parents have no one to blame but themselves. The reason? Our kids are addicted to praise. Ouch.” (Emmons, Scholastic.com)

I have the privledge of not only having my own children, but working with children on a daily basis and boy do I see this. The children I work with are generally about preschool age and younger, so they are still very much in the egocentric stage of life which I think does contribute to the need for praise a bit.

Like Emmons points out, “self-esteem depends on your internal ability to generate positive feelings about your accomplishments — it’s not something other people can give you.” But kids come to rely on it and when they do fail or don’t have that self-esteem boost from your “way to go’s” and “good job’s” they can struggle and this can affect their confidence and in a bad way. Just like Summons points out, the first type of bad confidence all that praise can lead to is the “entitled I-can-do-no-wrong type of thinking”, this is probably what I see the most in my daily experiences with children and because of this thinking, we tend to have higher numbers of behavior issues with those “entitled” children. Because they think they can do no wrong, they do wrong (hit, kick, say mean things) and are shocked when they have a consequence.

Kids also become addicted to receiving praise and sometimes can not gain motivation without it because “They have no real proof of their capabilities and begin to doubt themselves entirely”. For those of you that work with kids (or maybe have even experienced it with your own…) that child that keeps tugging at your shirt saying “did I do a good job, didn’t I do a good job” just waiting and waiting for you to praise them, a smile or a glance at their work isn’t going to be enough for them, they need that verbal affirmation of praise.

So, basically what it comes down to is kids depend on that praise to be able to regulate their feelings of self confidence and esteem, but they should be learning this without all the praise. Of course “way to go’s” and “good jobs” are fine when used in moderation and when they are heartfelt (not just a automatic response).

To see ideas on how to help build self-esteem in a healthy way, read the article below:
http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/praise-discipline/how-to-build-healthy-self-esteem-children?cid=PCM/e/20140311///NL///Test//1521301/&ym_MID=1521301&ym_rid=13763579

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