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Child Behavior: Hudson Valley Child Behavior Expert Speaks on Self-Esteem

Strong self-esteem can help battle bullying

Strong self-esteem can help battle bullying

Will my child succeed?” That’s a question on most parents’ minds these days since school is well underway. And “Will he be motivated to do his best?” comes right after.

One variable that is repeatedly mentioned as a “key” to success is self-esteem.
Self-esteem is an aspect of self-concept that emerges in early childhood, and is the judgment a child makes about her own worth and the feelings associated with those judgments.

Self-esteem in childhood ranks among the most important aspects of self-concept and self-development since the child’s evaluations of their own competencies significantly affect their emotional experiences as well as their future behavior and long-term psychological adjustment.

According to the research the following appear to be the most influential factors enhancing or detracting from children’s self-esteem.

Physical appearance
Our society places a high value on physical appearance and young children are aware of these attractiveness standards and incorporate them into their sense
of selves at an early age. These standards become especially challenging for girls and therefore they are more likely to be dissatisfied with their physical appearance, much more so as they enter adolescence and in turn their self-esteem may suffer.

Relationship with caregivers & parents
Children who have warm and secure relationships with their parents and other caregivers generally develop positive feelings and concepts about themselves. These children internalize such self-statements as “I am loveable and I have value.”

A number of research studies have suggested a child’s self-perception of their abilities and competence are influenced more by their parent’s negative appraisals then by objective evidence of their achievements.  The parent who berates or belittles a child’s accomplishment always saying “this isn’t good enough” or setting up unrealistic perfectionist standards may cause the child to give up — feeling “what’s the use, nothing I do is good enough — why try at all?” Or the child may “act dumb” so as not to set up such high expectations in the first place.

READ MORE: 8 tips to boosting your daughter's self-esteem

Peer relations
Especially as a child ages, peers have a significant influence on self-esteem, and this is especially true in adolescence.  Children with good peer relationships develop a positive self-concept and positive self-esteem.  Being accepted by peers affirms a sense of being liked and being likeable. Positive peer relationships also provide children with support and affection. In contrast, children who are rejected by peers may develop a sense of doubt about their ability to relate to others, which can lead to low self-esteem as well as withdrawal from or reluctance to engage in social situations, acting out, victimization and even aggression.

Social & cultural conditions
Youngsters raised in stressful or threatening environments are at greater risk to develop a poor self-concept and low self-esteem. Children in poverty who face violence or abuse daily or who have inadequate nutrition and care giving have an almost daily undermining of their dignity, value and self-worth.

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College.

Other articles by Paul Schwartz