Concluding our series on developing self-esteem in children is Principle 9: modeling behavior. Between three-to-five-years old, children increasingly identify with their parents and begin to model themselves after their parents’ sense of competence and inner strength. Well before this time, children have been matching their feelings with those of their parents.
How children model their parents’ behavior and feelings
Because children model their parents’ behavior as well as feelings, for the highest self-esteem, parents should model a sense of optimism and a positive view of themselves to their children.
Of course, parents cannot and should not pretend to children that they are feeling differently from the way they truly are. If a parent is frequently drained, depressed and pessimistic or constantly angry with a child, the child will pick up on these emotions. Therefore, you can see why it is important for a parent to self-nurture, to gradually become more positive and optimistic about his/her own identity and sense of self.
The impact of emotions and behaviors on children
Children have an amazing way to sense the emotions of their parents and emote some of the same anxiety and emotional imbalances. Consequently, it is essential that the child sense that “things will generally turn out all right.” To provide reassurance, the parent consistently models ways of working toward improvement.
Finding positive self-esteem models outside the home can also be helpful. Seek out an individual from a service organization such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, a child care worker, or a mentor from a church, family member or other community group.
Positive role-models of people who have succeeded in difficult situations can sometimes be found in books or movies. There are many ways that our current media can help our children develop good models for self-esteem, but it takes some care in determining which would be most helpful.
Unfortunately, some media also can send destructive messages to our children. These destructive messages should be avoided at all costs. Caregivers should monitor all the television and other media sources which influence our children.
Parents lead very busy lives. They are attempting to work and raise their children. Because life can feel overwhelming at times, this idea of parental nurturing and self-care is easy to forget. However, since our children identify with emotions and behaviors, the consequences of poor self-esteem or less than positive behavior-modeling of parents and caregivers can directly impact our children’s self-esteem.
Parents can choose to create a positive environment
In essence, healthy parents can more easily create environments that are healthy for their children.
As simple as these nine principles may seem, they are often ignored. I know many of the principles we have identified are time-consuming and sometimes difficult to implement for caregivers, but they are priceless to the self-esteem of children.
My advice is that you list these principles and put the list in a place where you can easily and regularly review them. This will assist you to consistently apply them and encourage and support the children in your care.
A bit of preventative care and support for our children can contribute to a healthy self-esteem and make a lasting difference in how they view themselves. In providing our children with optimism and confidence, we will maximize their ability to be emotionally and relationally healthy. That is a great outcome that will last a lifetime!
This is the final principle we will discuss in developing self-esteem in children. I do hope this series has been helpful to our readers as we have explored this valuable subject for those who are caregiving to our wonderful children.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Research taken from Pathways to Competence, Second Edition, Sarah Landy, p. 352-353.