4. The Importance of Self-Esteem
Children need self-esteem to think themselves worthy of expressing their opinions. Parents can strengthen their children’s self-esteem by encouraging them to try new things, stimulating their curiosity, and showing pride in their accomplishments.
Understanding the importance of self-esteem,
the foundation of critical thinking
Before children can learn to analyze and criticize complicated material or controversial opinions, they need to have a strong sense of themselves. Their capacity to question external sources of information depends on feelings of self-worth and security.
The terms “self-confidence” and “self-esteem” are often used interchangeably. There is, however, a difference between the two, even if they are related. Before we can have high self-esteem, we must first have self-confidence. The feeling of confidence is a result of a belief in our ability to succeed.
Self-esteem rests on our conscious self-worth, despite our foibles and failures. It’s knowing how to recognize our strengths and our limitations and, therefore, having a realistic outlook on ourselves.
Self-esteem requires an ability to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and to accept them as they are.
For example, children can have high self-esteem even if they know that they struggle with math. Self-esteem can also vary depending on context. Children in school can have high social self-esteem, but a lower academic self-esteem.
Self-esteem requires an ability to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and to accept them as they are. Children must learn to understand that they have value, even if they can’t do everything perfectly.
Self-esteem starts developing in childhood. Very young children adopt a style of behavior that reflects their self-image. From the age of five, healthy self-esteem is particularly important when it comes to dealing with the numerous challenges they face. Children must, among other things, gradually become more independent, and learn how to read, write, and do mental arithmetic. This period is key, and children need self-confidence as well. More than anywhere else, it is in the family home that children develop the foundations for self-esteem.
Children with high self-esteem:
have an accurate conception of who they are and neither over- nor underestimate their abilities;
express their needs, feelings, ideas, and preferences;
are optimistic about the future;
dare to take risks and accept mistakes;
keep up their motivation to learn and to progress;
maintain healthy relationships with others;
trust their own thoughts and trust others.
As parents, developing our own self-esteem enhances the development of our children’s self-esteem, as their identity is closely entwined with our own. Our children learn a great deal by imitating us. Modeling self-esteem can therefore be a great help to them. Here are some examples of what we can do:
Be openly proud of our accomplishments, even those which seem minor to us.
Engage in activities just for fun (and not for competitive reasons).
Don’t pay too much heed to other people’s opinions about us.
Don’t belittle ourselves: if we’ve made an error or if we aren’t so good at a certain task, explain to children that we are going to start again and learn to do it better.
At mealtimes, prompt everyone around the table to say something they did well that day.
On a big sheet of paper, write down the names of family members; then, write down next to everyone’s name some of their strengths.