Positive Sense of Self
About This Module
Giving your child a positive sense of self can help them build their self-confidence, stop them be overly critical about themselves and increase their self-esteem.
Many adults who struggle with confidence issues, low self-esteem and even mental illness are helped every day by developing a positive sense of self.
The aim of this module is to empower you to teach your child to have a positive sense of self from a young age. By helping them to have from a young age, means you can help them cope with life’s challenges more easily. A positive sense of self is shown to reduce the chances of developing a mental illness. Amazing skills to give to your child!
What You'll Learn
Understand your child’s developing sense of self
Help your child’s sense of self to develop healthily
Learn how to build self confidence in a child
Lay a foundation for your child to build a healthy self esteem
Psychology Fun Facts
What is Sense of Self?
In psychology, a ‘sense of self’ or self-image is defined as the way a person thinks about and views their own actions, feelings, beliefs, strengths and purpose within the world.
Why is sense of self important?
Having a sense of what you’re good at and what you can do and can’t do yet, is the very beginning of our children knowing who they are in the world. It is vital to making friends and ultimately is a building block to having a positive sense of self that is accurate and is not either over-inflated or deflated.
Sense of self is a vital friendship skill. Children select friends whose sense of self appears to match their own. A child who knows their own interests, abilities and values is able to find other children with a compatible sense of self and helps to form long lasting friendships.
In young children, a healthy sense of self contributes to good sharing, taking turns and starting to resolve conflict on their own.
Why is self esteem important in child development?
Many adults struggle in life with low self-esteem. One cause of low self-esteem is an inaccurate sense of self in early childhood. You can help your child build healthy self-esteem by helping them develop a positive and accurate sense of self during childhood.
It’s important to give your child a positive sense of self. But, it’s about keeping the balance right. If you overcompensate and tell your child they’re great at everything and can do anything, this isn’t the reality and you will give your child an inaccurate sense of self.
Positive Self Esteem. Not Over-Inflated Self Esteem
A movement called the positive self-esteem movement developed in USA in the 1960s. This movement was strongly promoted by some educationalists and psychotherapists and has been followed by many parents. The core ideas have been summarised by psychology professor Roy Baumeister. Parents were encouraged to expose their children only to positive experiences and feelings, and to avoid stress and disappointment. It was argued that confidence is based on always experiencing success with no failure, in errorless learning to encourage achievement. Children were encouraged to focus on their own feelings of self-worth and importance.
But, the disadvantages of the positive self-esteem movement became evident during the 1980s. Children raised using these positive self-esteem principles were no good at managing disappointment, and they had little resilience when they encountered difficulties. They interpreted failure as meaning they lacked the essential qualities to be good, so they avoided challenges where failure was possible. They were not skilled at identifying their shortcomings, and wanted to be told they were great at everything. It emerged that these children wanted superlative praise for even minor achievements.
These children had been over-praised and they became entitled, wanting all of the world to treat them kindly the way their parents had, as they wanted to always feel special rather than ordinary. They were unable to tolerate any form of criticism, as they had no practice in managing criticisms. They considered they could do no wrong, and they wanted to maintain this image with others.
And the result of this was that these children were emotionally fragile and self-focused and they were prone to anxiety and depression when they met difficulties.
Psychological research has concluded that the unqualified positive self-esteem principles produced many problems. It is important for children to have a sense of self that is accurate, so that the child can recognise and acknowledges areas of shortcoming as well as areas of strength. And it is these principles that WeParent stands by and uses here in this module.
Infants have yet to develop a sense of self. They simply exist in the world and to their young minds they can have little or no impact on what happens around them.
Then, gradually they start to realise they can have an impact on what happens. Little things are where it starts. Baby smiles at Mum, causing Mum to smile back. Baby throws their toy off the highchair, Mum picks it up. Do it again, and Mum picks it up again. This is your baby learning their actions cause other actions. This is called agency.
Children Learning about Agency
One early concept we learn by the age of 3 is called Agency. This is basic cause-and-effect. i.e. if I do something, it can cause something to happen. Toddlers are new to this and often don’t fully understand that their actions cause other people to react.
An easy example is, a toddler takes a toy from his friend, his friend cries. A toddler is still learning that taking the toy made his friend cry. The toddler who took the toy very likely doesn’t realise his actions caused his friend to cry.
Sense of Self as a Toddler
Toddlers have very limited sense of self. They don’t view themselves as being good at things or bad at things, there are just things I do and things others do for me.
Toddlers start to learn that some of their actions can please their parents and others displease their parents.
Sense of Self at 3-5 years
During early childhood, children start to describe themselves using words. I have long hair. I am a girl. I can run fast. I am 3.
This act of describing their characteristics is a developmental milestone for children. It shows they are starting to develop their sense of self and can distinguish themselves from others.
At this age, children describe themselves as being different, but they might not evaluate differences as being better or worse.
Sense of Self at 6-8 years
During the mid-childhood years, our sense of self develops further. Children are starting to see all the things in the world that can be done and sort them in their minds by what they can do and what they can’t do. For example, dress myself – can do, drive a car – can’t do.
Often children talk of ‘can do now’, ‘not yet’ or ‘can do when I am bigger’.
In a nutshell, sense of self is a skill which our children learn themselves. As a parent, we can monitor our child’s progress on developing sense of self and help them along the way when needed.
A parent can encourage their child’s sense of self by giving descriptive praise, such as “You can wash your hands by yourself now.” This descriptive praise helps a child to incorporate their strengths into their self-talk, ‘I can do that by myself.’
There are two main reasons a child may be under-estimating their own skills and sense of self.
Firstly, your child may naturally focus on what they can’t do rather than what they can do. This could be learned from modelling your approach to life or from their natural disposition.
Secondly, you may be focusing too much on what they can’t do and criticising their failures rather than focusing on praising what they are already good at.
You can help your child to develop a positive self-esteem by helping your child to evaluate its actions according to standards that you pass on to your child.
A child develops a positive self-esteem when 80% of the feedback the child receives is positive, and less than 20% of the feedback is negative or critical. Low self-esteem and low confidence develop when a child is exposed to a high proportion of criticism or negative feedback.
Over-inflated self-esteem and over-confidence develop when a child receives almost 100% praise and no criticism.