Happy people and happy children have high self-esteem. They are content and they have reasonable goals that they work to meet. When they fail at something they don’t get in a mad, depressive panic they think about what went wrong and try to change it so that next time it will be better.
This self-esteem or trust in themselves that happy children or happy people have doesn’t necessarily come naturally. They have either seen it work for others or someone has guided them through this process. They have been guided to feel in control of their goals and the way in which they pursue them. Their goals haven’t been dictated by others, they have set them themselves.
Self-esteem is a trust that you have with yourself. That you can do this!
Can self esteem be instilled in a child?
According to Martin Seligman the answer is no, well not directly anyway. I have been looking into and researching the studies around positive psychology for the last two years. Throughout my research Martin Seligman’s name keeps popping up as the inventor of this area of psychology.
He says that instead of telling a child that they did really well, when it’s clear they haven’t, isn’t the best way to go. As parents and teachers we are always telling our children to keep trying, you’ll get there one day. Although, if their goal is to be football star and they are awkward when they handle a ball at 10 years old, it’s probably it going to happen. So they stop believing you, they give up and stop trying.
So what do we do or say instead? Well Seligman says to be honest, to focus on what they can do and give them the skills to improve on what they need to. Tell them a story of when you sucked at something. This will help them understand that in life there are setbacks, life keeps going, it’s not a big deal.
When children are kept away from failing, they are taught, inadvertently, they they don’t need to try hard to achieve or they have limited control in their outcomes (not god for improving self-esteem). When all students receive a ribbon for a race, when all children receive a satisfactory mark at school, this is teaching them that they don’t need to try. It is not instilling self esteem at all. Because when real life happens, when real set backs happen, they are not ready for it. They haven’t been taught how to deal with the disappointments.
They need to be guided on how to reflect on what went wrong and how they can then improve.
To improve self-esteem in children set timely, manageable goals that are achievable but still a challenge. Help them make a plan of how they are going to achieve those goals. Guid them through a process of fixing what didn’t work if they fail.
Dust yourself off and try again…