Research evidence indicates that by the age of 8 self esteem is fairly well defined and may be harder to change. This highlights the importance of nurturing children's self esteem during their early years.
Self esteem develops from children's experiences and how others react to them. If children have successful experiences and they get messages from others that say "you are great" then their self esteem increases. If they experience failure and negative reactions from others, their self esteem decreases.
Self esteem is not determined by one positive or one negative experience, but rather from a combination of all children's experiences. Life is not always full of positive experiences for anyone - but we need to make sure that children experience more positive reactions than negative reactions from others.
There are numerous ways in which children's self esteem can be fostered, but generally this involves providing positive experiences with people and life and providing opportunities for children to experience success.
Children develop high self esteem when they feel a sense of security, identity, belonging, purpose and personal competence.
When thinking about fostering the development of children's self esteem we need to look at what kind of messages they are getting from all the significant people in their lives. Parents have the earliest role in this and continue to be a strong influence. As children get older teachers and other children also have a role to play. It is not just up to parents or just up to teachers - but up to all those who have a role in each child's life. It can be hard to influence how other children or adult visitors will respond to your child - all you can do is lead by example.
As role models it is important for parents to look after their own self esteem too and let the child see that you feel good about your self. Take time out for yourself regularly, do something you enjoy.
Jenni Pearce, Psychologist (2009)
Child & Educational Psychology
6 Edward Street, NORWOOD 5067 South Australia, Australia.
Telephone: 0407 726 332
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