Every day, children ages 6 to 10 may face new challenges at home with their families and at school with their friends and teachers. At the end of one day, they may feel good about themselves. They have fun with their friends, have done well at school, and are happy at home. The next day, it may all fall apart if even one thing goes wrong.
Many things influence children's self-esteem, which is a child's sense of worth and belonging. Such things include a child's nature or innate abilities, and how he or she is nurtured-the child's experience with parents, caregivers, and others.
It is normal for self-esteem to rise and fall in cycles, from day to day and even hour to hour, as a child builds and then rebuilds his or her self-concept. Children who feel as though they are not good in at least one thing tend to be emotionally vulnerable.
To help strengthen and support healthy self-esteem in your child:
Help your child learn how to make and keep friends. Healthy friendships are important, because children in this age group are increasingly sensitive about how their friends feel about them.
- Teach your children the social skills needed to meet friends, such as how to introduce themselves, start conversations, and politely join in play.
- Model healthy relationships with your partner, relatives, and friends.
- Encourage your children to talk about their concerns and problems making friends.
- Talk to your children about behaviors you observe when they are with their friends. Do this later so as not to embarrass your child. Note specific behavior, and offer suggestions for improvement. For example, "I heard you tell Sarah you wouldn't go to the wading pool with her. Do you think that may have hurt her feelings? How do you think you could have handled it better?"
- Reassure your child that you accept him or her even when others do not. A child's self-esteem wavers from situation to situation and sometimes moment to moment, depending upon the interaction. A child's sense of self-worth deepens when adults help him or her understand that life has its ups and downs.
- Involve your child in chores around the house that stretch his or her abilities. Children gain a sense of accomplishment when they are offered real challenges rather than those that are merely frivolous or fun.
- Respond positively to your child's efforts and interests. Children are often able to see through flattery or excessive praise. But they usually appreciate an adult's genuine concern and interest. Make your comments specific, such as "I really like the face on this person you drew. You did such a good job on the nose, which is so hard!" Help and encourage your child with homework, and show an interest in his or her activities.
- Treat your child with respect. Ask his or her views and opinions, consider them seriously, and give meaningful and realistic feedback. Children's self-esteem grows when they are respected by adults who are important to them.
- Think ahead about how to discipline. A positive approach to discipline is linked to better self-esteem in children. Avoid using words or acts that harm your child (corporal punishment). Instead, nurture your child even when you are disciplining him or her. Encourage your child's sense of responsibility. And focus on your child's behavior, not the child. For instance, if your daughter cheated on a test, explain to her that the behavior of cheating is not acceptable; it's not that your child is bad. Find out why she decided to cheat. Encourage her to talk with you about any concerns so that you can help her come up with better ways to deal with issues she faces. Catch your child doing something right and praise him or her. Don't wait until your child has done something wrong to notice his or her behavior.
- Support your child during his or her failures. After giving your child time to reflect on a disappointment or problem, help him or her to understand the situation. For example, if your child lies to you, explain why this is not appropriate behavior. Often, children lie when they have done something wrong so that they don't disappoint their parents. Let your child know that you love him or her, even if you feel let down. Emphasize that it's important to tell the truth in your family.
- Encourage communication. You can help open up dialogue with your child by asking questions in an indirect way. For example, ask open-ended questions such as, "Tell me more about the math test" or "It sounds like it was a busy day." Using these types of techniques helps to you to talk with children in a natural way, so you quiz your child less with standard questions, such as "What did you do at school today?" Actively listen to what your child says. Sometimes you don't need to say anything.