Children usually become aware of themselves and their environment by the age of three, and parents are often unaware of the emotions or ideas they’re passing on to their kids, ones that could be damaging to their children’s self-esteem.
Here are a few things to be more aware of:
Chubby cheeks and thighs are common features of young children, and mothers sometimes unintentionally make their children aware of their body parts. *Anele Mahlangu (35) says she had no idea how talking about her four-year-old’s podgy bits made her child self-conscious. “She’d start hiding her tummy when playing with her cousins, and it wasn’t until my sister made me aware of this habit that I realised I’m largely to blame,” says Mahlangu. “I’d never do anything to taint my baby girl’s self-esteem!”
Another habit parents unintentionally adopt is comparing children to their siblings or to other kids. If a child constantly faces comparison, he or she won’t be motivated to achieve more. Remember, every child’s strengths and weaknesses are different, so encourage them to continue doing better at what they’re good at.
The best way to gauge your child’s sense of self-esteem is to spend time talking to them. Listening is a skill that parents should continuously apply. If your child finds that you aren’t attentive, they’ll start to feel less confident about sharing ideas, stories and emotions with you.
Amplifying their faults in front of others
Ever notice how your child gets embarrassed when you yell at them in company or in the presence of their peers? Parents who constantly bring their children’s shortcomings to light when people are around have no idea how much damage they’re doing. Rather, consider disciplining your child diplomatically and discuss the matter further once you’re home.
If, for example, at a later age your child brings home a less-than-desirable report card, don’t bring it up in every conversation. Rather sit down and talk about how you’re going to work together.
Not applauding achievements
Children in the early stages of development need to be affirmed more so than older children. Don’t let an opportunity pass you by. Also, be sure to make them aware of what they need to do differently, to create a healthy balance. When they’re good, praise them accordingly. Some parents even choose to give their kids small rewards. If they’re not behaving well, let them know. Remember, whatever your means of discipline, it needs to be constructive in the long run.
Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Liane Lurie told DESTINY in a previous article about depression and anxiety among young children. “The pressures that children are facing are far greater than they’ve ever been, whether it’s the pressure to succeed at school or if they’re being bullied – these are the sorts of things that all combine to create factors that are part and parcel of anxiety and depression,” she explains.
* Names have been changed