01 Dec Helping Children Build Healthy Self Esteem
Human beings in general and children in particular, have a tendency to judge their entire value as a person (i.e. their self-worth), on the one or two things in life that they’re not good at or confident about. These typically include:
- Body shape
- Sporting ability
If these tendencies are allowed to develop they can impact on our health and well-being.
Learning to be judged and rated
As children grow up, they learn that there are specific areas of their lives where they can be judged and rated and compared against other children. Good examples include sports performance and academic performance.
To an extent, this is fine because we live in a competitive world and it’s useful for children to have performance reference points that they understand.
Goals and targets are important
It’s important for all humans of all ages to have targets and goals. Goals give us purpose and stop us drifting. There is lots of evidence to show that humans are at their happiest when they are striving towards achieving goals which:
- Will benefit them
- They believe are achievable
Learning to deal with disappointments
However, it’s also important for children to learn to deal with and rationalise inevitable life events like losing and disappointment. They need to understand that whilst it’s important to have targets and to try your best to achieve them, even if you do give something your best shot, someone else may be better than you and you may not always be successful.
Your value as a person cannot be judged or rated
Problems arise when children believe that in order to earn approval and be accepted they have to perform well. If they believe that their value as a human being depends on their performances against other children they may become insecure and exhibit behaviours like withdrawal on the one extreme or bedwetting on the other.
The most important need for all human beings is safety, they want to know that there’s a place they belong to and a group they’re accepted as part of. This is particularly important for children, because they are prone to feeling threatened and vulnerable. If children feel that their safety and acceptance in their group depends on their performance in things like exams and sport, they can never relax and will always feel under pressure and hold beliefs like ‘I must do well to earn my parents’ approval’.
The key lesson for children to learn is that whilst there are specific things you can be judged and rated on, your value as a person is never in question. Parents can reinforce this by explaining that whilst they will be pleased if their child does well in competitive situations, their unconditional acceptance of their child is always guaranteed.
Peer group judging
As children get older, they become more sensitive to judgement and rating by their peers. Again, this is a normal part of life and helps toughen us up and prepare us for the inevitable slings and arrows of adulthood.
A big potential problem for children in appearance-orientated modern society is that they can easily learn to believe that their value as people depends on superficial factors like looks, weight and body shape. If this gets out of control, it can have serious physical and psychological consequences.
How parents can help
Explain that whilst it’s nice to have the approval of others, it’s not always going to happen. The only approval we really need is our own. We are who we are and it’s important to make the most of the gifts, talents and privileges that we do have, rather than obsess about what we haven’t got or what we can’t do.
Avoid judgemental comments
Avoid making judgemental comments (particularly in the presence of children), about people’s looks, weight and appearance. Reinforce that it’s the quality of the person that counts not their appearance.
Peer group judging
Monitor peer group comments to ensure it doesn’t become bullying.
Explain that a healthy weight is important to long term health. However, also explain that bodies don’t mature until late teens/early twenties, until then, perfectly healthy children may seem either skinny or plump, depending on their genes. Also, reinforce that overweight people are valuable human beings with feelings, not objects of scorn.
Appearance and personal presentation
Explain that there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in personal appearance but that it’s more important to some people than others. Again, it’s the quality of the person that counts, not their ‘packaging’.
Our looks are the consequence of our genes. There’s very little we can do about them. Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency for people (particularly women), to become depressed and even suicidal because of their unhappiness with their looks.
The expression ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is very appropriate and very true.
Avoid making judgemental comments about looks in the presence of children.
Try to make reference to a person’s positive qualities like kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness etc.
Explain that most of us are lucky enough to be blessed with good health whereas some poor people have serious disabilities.
Explain that minor imperfections like a mole or a dimple or a birth mark are small prices to pay for good health.
Hypnotherapy Can Help
Hypnotherapy can be very helpful in helping children build self-esteem. Please contact me to find out more.
BA (Hons) D.Hyp PDCBHyp
Member of The British Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Member of The British Institute of Hypnotherapy
Tel: 07768 613866