Being the victim of a bully is devastating, often leading to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one-fifth of children experience bullying at some time during their school years. Today, bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground; it can follow a child home and haunt them through messaging apps and social media. There is often no escape from the constant taunting, insults, and harassment.
If someone is bullying your child, you might be taking all the right steps: talking to the school and local authorities, working closely with teachers, offering emotional support, and limiting your child’s exposure to social media. But are you paying attention to your child’s self-esteem? In the book, Your Child’s Self Esteem, author Dorothy Briggs states, “self-esteem is the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being.” As a parent, it is your job to nurture and affirm your child’s self-esteem.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the way you perceive yourself, including thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about yourself. It is shaped and influenced not only by your perceptions but by those of significant people in your life; in children, that includes parents, siblings, relatives, teachers, and friends. Your ideal self is the picture of how you want to be. The closer your ideal self and self-esteem are, the higher your self-esteem.
Self-esteem changes as your perceptions change, but it is much easier to develop a healthy self-esteem in children than to change it in adulthood. While there are many influences in your child’s life—teachers, relatives, friends—you, as the parent, are the most significant and are the key to helping your child form healthy and positive self-perceptions.
Benefits of healthy self-esteem
People with a healthy self-esteem usually have a higher level of general happiness and well-being and enjoy life more than those with low self-esteem. They are more optimistic, better able to adapt to changing situations, and have an easier time handling conflict. During the pre-teen and teen years, high self-esteem makes it easier to resist negative influences and peer pressure.
Characteristics of healthy self-esteem
- You usually are a well-rounded person. You enjoy interacting with other people, being content by yourself, and working independently.
- You work toward solutions rather than focusing on the problem.
- You can voice discontent without putting yourself or others down. You might say, “I don’t understand this” rather than “I am stupid.”
- You understand and accept your strengths and weaknesses. You view your weaknesses as areas to improve rather than deficits.
- You have a sense of optimism.
- You develop your perception of your capabilities based on try, fail, try again, succeed. You understand that sometimes you must try many times before success comes.
People with healthy self-esteem have a well-rounded view of themselves. Rather than focusing on one specific area, they try different activities.
Signs of unhealthy self-esteem
A person with low self-esteem might:
- Say negative things about themselves, such as “I am stupid” or “I can’t do anything right.”
- Resist trying new things.
- Have a low tolerance for frustration, giving up when they encounter a problem or things don’t go right, or sit back and wait for someone to take over and finish a task.
- View temporary setbacks as permanent failures.
- Be pessimistic.
- Have difficulty problem-solving.
- Act out when things go wrong.
- Have few friends, become socially withdrawn, or shy away from social interaction.
- Exhibit mood changes, such as crying, sadness, becoming quiet, or having angry outbursts.
- Have difficulty accepting praise or criticism, because of a high level of sensitivity toward other people’s opinions.
It’s important to remember that self-esteem can change. Children might go through stages when they feel insecure; however, as they mature and self-perception develops from continually learning and growing, they are more apt to persevere through difficult times and come through feeling good about themselves.
How parents can help
The following are nine ways you can nurture your child's self-esteem:
- Listen to and acknowledge your child’s thoughts and feelings
- Introduce and encourage different things to allow your child to discover their interests.
- Praise for effort, focusing on the process rather than just the result.
- Provide them with space to try, take risks, make choices and solve problems.
- Allow them to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.
- Offer age-appropriate choices as often as possible.
- Provide them with opportunities to succeed, such as household chores with clear expectations and help when needed.
- Provide encouragement and positive feedback to help them learn to stick with something to completion, so they feel a sense of accomplishment
- Set a good example by nurturing your self-esteem.
Above all, show and tell your child you love them. Create and nurture a safe home environment where your child feels loved. Spend one-on-one time with your child every day.
Bullying Statistics: https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/stats.asp
Why Self-Esteem Is Important for Mental Health: https://namimc.org/self-esteem-important-mental-health/
The Importance of Positive Self-Esteem: https://miuc.org/importance-of-positive-self-esteem/
The Importance of Self-esteem: https://www.chhs.niu.edu/child-center/resources/articles/self-esteem.shtml