The development of self-esteem begins during infancy and is primarily built from positive interactions children have with their parents.
The development of a child's self-esteem unfolds with the perceptions of those closest to them (parents, siblings or caregivers) and then expands, as the child gets older, to outside the nuclear family. Children will internalize the feelings and experiences they encounter through these relationships and incorporate them into a definition of who they are. When they experience affirmative relationships, children will build confidence in their own merit as individual people.
It is imperative then, that parents, being the first point of relationship contact for a child, set the groundwork for the development of a healthy self-esteem. Parents can facilitate this process by exhibiting 4 basic behaviours to their children on a consistent basis.
Support for Children
Parents provide a safe haven for children where they come to express their dreams and aspirations, their fears and their failures and know that their parents will listen. It is a place of retreat when things go wrong. Children will know that their parents' "place" offers a supportive framework that they can lean on, gather strength and be encouraged to carry on.
Parents Empower Children
As children grow parents bestow onto them more and more autonomy and authorize a sense of independence. From learning to tie their own shoes to driving a car, parents instill confidence in their children to try new things and tackle chores and problems on their own. Parents recognize their children's strengths and highlight them so children begin to use their strengths to make decisions and choose career paths that are right for them.
Unconditional Love From Parents
Parents continue to demonstrate and communicate their adoration for their children, no matter what their children have done. Parents see their child’s mis-behaviour as opportunities for their child to learn and grow. Parents help misbehaved children learn from their mistakes, guide them to make amends for their wrong doing and help them to choose appropriate behaviours the next time.
Faith in a Child's Capabilities
Parents trust that their children will learn right from wrong. As their children grow, parents give them opportunities to exercise problem solving and negotiation skills. Parents set their children up for social and academic success based on individual character strengths and allow their children to make mistakes and learn from them. Parents communicate trust and belief in their children’s ability to succeed, right from learning to feed independently, to taking their first steps, to going off to university.
Through a consistent showing of these parenting behaviours, children get positive reinforcement of specific self-esteem attributes. Children who receive support are strengthened; those who are empowered feel encouraged; children who know unconditional love learn to love themselves and when children know that their parents have faith in them, they are fulfilled as a human beings.
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