Signs of Low Self-Esteem
To help you determine if your child has low self-esteem, watch for the following signals. They could be everyday responses to how your child relates to the world around him, or they might occur only occasionally in specific situations. When they become a repeated pattern of behavior, you need to become sensitive to the existence of a problem.
- Your child avoids a task or challenge without even trying. This often signals a fear of failure or a sense of helplessness.
- He quits soon after beginning a game or a task, giving up at the first sign of frustration.
- He cheats or lies when he believes he's going to lose a game or do poorly.
- He shows signs of regression, acting babylike or very silly. These types of behavior invite teasing and name-calling from other youngsters, thus adding insult to injury.
- He becomes controlling, bossy, or inflexible as ways of hiding feelings of inadequacy, frustration or powerlessness.
- He makes excuses ("The teacher is dumb") or downplays the importance of events ("I don't really like that game anyway"), using this kind of rationalizing to place blame on others or external forces.
- His grades in school have declined, or he has lost interest in usual activities.
- He withdraws socially, losing or having less contact with friends.
- He experiences changing moods, exhibiting sadness, crying, angry outbursts, frustration or quietness.
- He makes self-critical comments, such as "I never do anything right", "Nobody likes me", "I'm ugly", "It's my fault", or "Everyone is smarter than I am."
- He has difficulty accepting either praise or criticism.
- He becomes overly concerned or sensitive about other people's opinions of him.
- He seems to be strongly affected by negative peer influence, adopting attitudes and behaviors like a disdain for school, cutting classes, acting disrespectfully, shoplifting, or experimenting with tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
- He is either overly helpful or never helpful at home.
Boosting your Child's Self-Esteem
If you and/or your pediatrician or other professional have concluded that your child could use help with her self-esteem, start with some positive steps of your own. You can become the most influential person in getting your child's self-concept back on track.
Here are some suggestions:
- Spend time with your child. Find activities you can do together that will make her feel successful - and that are fun, too, without winners and losers. Attend her soccer games and music recitals. Show her that you are interested in her and what she accomplishes. By giving time and energy to your child, you will convey a powerful message of love and acceptance.
- Treat your child as an important person. Encourage her to express herself, listen without judging, accept her feelings and treat her with respect.
- Whenever possible, allow your child to make decisions and assume more responsibility in her life. Show your trust in her.
- Build close family relationships, and make your child feel that she is contributing to the family unit.
- Do not expose your youngster to, or confide in her about, adult topics or family/marital tensions that will cause her stress. Try to minimize her anxieties related to family crises and changes, providing her with as much continuity and stability as possible.
- Encourage your child to provide service to others - perhaps through Scouting or a similar type of program - in order to increase her sense of community, her feeling of belonging and being appreciated and her sense of importance and personal worth.
- Teach your child to praise herself. She should feel pride in her accomplishments.
- Tell your youngster how much you love her, and what a good and lovable child she is - without any conditions or strings attached. Although parents' actions and efforts convey love indirectly, children also need to hear the words "I love you."
Boosting your child's self-concept will not happen overnight. It may take months or years, and it is an ongoing process. If your child is not responding to your attempts at helping her, however, and worrisome or serious problems persist, talk to your pediatrician about the need for professional assistance.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics