What is self-esteem? – How to improve the low self-esteem of your children?

What is self-esteem How to improve the low self-esteem of your children

Definition of self-esteem: What is self-esteem?

We define self-esteem as the value that an individual has of himself. This value that the subject assigns can be positive or negative. When we refer to self-esteem from the psychological point of view we are referring to the emotional and subjective assessment that a person makes of himself.

This assessment is usually based on their perceptions, feelings, thoughts and experiences and therefore is tremendously subjective and does not have to coincide with the assessment that other people make of the subject. It may be the case that a person has low self-esteem and yet those around him have a very positive assessment of him.

Low selfsteem.

When we speak of low self-esteem in psychological terms we are referring to individuals who have difficulty judging their own values. They do not feel valuable at all, and by extending their own self-worth to others, they are convinced that they are not loved or valued by others.

Not feeling loved, they set in motion psychological mechanisms, sometimes unconscious, to obtain the approval of the people around them. In a way, they put aside their way of being and behave doing exactly what they think will please their environment.

They are rarely able to say what they really think, except when they know that their thoughts coincide with those of their interlocutors. This attitude creates insecurity, indecision and dissatisfaction. They are people who are very sensitive to criticism and tend to have quite a bit of difficulty claiming their rights, that is, they have a deficit of assertiveness.

In certain situations, such as when showing their affections or being seen in privacy, they tend to develop a lot of anxiety , which translates into the loss of spontaneity, giving rise to quite rigid social behaviors, so as not to feel exposed to criticism.

High self-steem.

Unlike people with low self-esteem, the subject with high self-esteem has a high self-concept. They tend to have great confidence in their abilities and have no problem making decisions. Their positive evaluation enables them to face difficult challenges to overcome with optimism and high expectations of success.

Young man with high self-esteem.

Child self-esteem.

When we talk about children’s self-esteem, we are referring to the degree of satisfaction that the child has with himself. As in the adult, it is a subjective assessment that the child makes of his personal abilities.

The child with high self-esteem.

There are many traits that accompany high self-esteem in a child. The feeling of positive self-esteem will manifest itself in:

  • It has enough affective and emotional stability .
  • Self confidence.
  • Properly know your weak points. Equally its strengths.
  • He is generally an optimistic child.
  • Deep acceptance of yourself as a whole.
  • Likewise, he accepts others in the same way.
  • You have the ability to deal realistically with the problems that arise.
  • Good acceptance of the critics.
  • He is tolerant of the ideas of others.
  • Act in coherence with your beliefs and values.
  • Help others whenever you can.
  • Shows deep empathy for the needs of others.
  • High autonomy, it is able to fend for itself.
  • It is usually quite independent.

Development of self-esteem in the child.

Development of self esteem in the child.

The degree of satisfaction that the child has with himself is not something innate. The child is not born with high or low self-esteem. Self-esteem is a feeling that develops from the first months of life and is highly influenced by the relationship with the parents and especially with the mother.

After the moment of birth, the baby is totally helpless. He has been expelled from the womb where everything was comfort and security. Suddenly he finds himself in a hostile world and begins to know the hunger, the cold, the noises, the pain …

From the first minutes of life, the baby develops close emotional ties with the parents. The mother has a fundamental role here, because she is going to provide him with everything he needs, she is going to give him lost security, she is going to feed him , clean and clean him, she is going to caress him and give him affection.

There is no doubt that the baby feeling so well cared for and entertained by his parents (or by his caregivers in the absence of the parents) will feel like someone very special. You are going to feel important, you are going to feel like a very valuable person and all these feelings will translate into an increase in your self-esteem.

Low self-esteem adult.

Attachment theory.

At the end of the Second World War the number of shattered families and orphaned children around the world was endless. The United Nations (UN) commissioned a study on how this family uprooting affected children.

The work fell on the English psychoanalyst and psychiatrist John Bowly , a case scholar of orphaned and misfit children. In his article “Maternal deprivation” he laid the foundations for what years later would be known as attachment theory .

Even at the risk of simplification, we can say that Bowly considers that the child establishes strong bonds, in the first months of life with their parents or their usual caregivers, when the parents cannot play this role.

The child will try to establish a strong bond with his caregiver for a double reason: a biological reason that consists of surviving in a hostile environment and a psychological reason that is the restoration of his lost security.

Affective ties of the child.

When referring to these ties that the child establishes with his parents, Bowly considers that they can be of two types: secure and insecure ties.

The child with secure ties does not feel the absence of his parents, he adapts to the presence of strangers and does not cry in their presence. The child, in the absence of his source of security, develops a healthy adaptive anxiety. He is a child who is beginning to develop high self-esteem and is not dependent on the presence of his parents.

On the contrary, the child who has developed insecure bonds, is highly dependent on their caregivers, develops high separation anxiety, does not tolerate the presence of strangers and cries easily and continuously until their parents appear. In this situation the uncontrollable crying of the baby is the unequivocal expression of the anxiety that he is suffering.

The type of bond that the child develops in his first months will be decisive in later stages of his life and will largely condition his emotional security, his autonomy, his independence and his self-esteem.

As the child grows, he gains greater autonomy and extends his relationships to other family members, siblings , teachers , friends or neighbors. The opinion of these people about the child is of paramount importance in the development of their self-worth and self-esteem.

Types of self-esteem.

The child’s feeling of self-esteem is not a global “whole”, but a set of subjective evaluations on different areas:

  1. The family : Depending on the relationship with parents or siblings, the child, as a member of the family , may feel more or less appreciated and secure.
  2. Physical appearance : Depending on your physical appearance and physical abilities, you will be more or less satisfied with yourself.
  3. School : The same goes for their intellectual abilities and their school performance .
  4. Friendship : The child compares and values ​​himself in relation to his friends . This will depend fundamentally on the degree of acceptance by peers and their ability to participate in games and activities.

Attachment theory: Secure bond with the mother.

Self-esteem in adolescence.

Adolescence is a critical period in the development of the subject. It is a period of continuous changes, both physical and mental, it is a period of insecurity and comparisons. Almost no adolescent is satisfied with their physique, “too fat”, “too thin”, “a lot of pimples”, “few muscles”, “a lot of ass”, “little chest” … the list could be endless.

During adolescence, different factors appear that will condition the development of self-esteem:

  1. The physical appearance with all the bodily changes that it entails. The adolescent, in general, is usually not at all satisfied with his physical appearance.
  2. The development of the first love relationships : falling in love. The fear of being rejected by the person who attracts you appears.
  3. Higher and higher academic demands, moving from primary to secondary education. This is accentuated if there is also a change of school and with it the need to integrate into a new environment of friends and teachers.

During adolescence the influence of adults and especially of the communication and audiovisual media is brutal and adolescents feel insecure not only physically but also psychologically, in their affective, social, intellectual or sports capacities.

Faced with social pressure and fashionable clichés, the adolescent can create an ideal image that is unreal and that he will never be able to achieve and this can lead to low self-esteem and lead to serious problems typical of this age, such as depressive states, or disorders eating behavior such as anorexia and bulimia .

Does my child have self-esteem problems?

Does my child have self-esteem problems

The only way to answer this question is to be very attentive to all the manifestations of your child, because when he makes comments in which he refers to his own person he can give you valuable clues about his degree of self-esteem.

Depression , which is a very common disorder in childhood and often goes unnoticed, tends to lead to low self-esteem.

Indicators of low self-esteem.

  1. Sad mood
  2. Use of phrases similar to “no one likes me” or “nothing works out for me”.
  3. He blames himself for everything bad that happens in his environment.
  4. He thinks he is clumsier and less intelligent than his classmates.
  5. He thinks that he is not good at any sport.
  6. You feel rejected and marginalized by your peers.
  7. Great indecision.
  8. Very pessimistic about his future.
  9. You do not feel capable of doing anything without outside help.
  10. He does not find any virtue in him, he only sees defects.
  11. He is always dissatisfied.

Adolescent with low self-esteem.

How to increase your child’s self-esteem?

  1. Your child needs to feel loved at home, regardless of their behavior.
  2. He also needs to feel safe, surrounded by family members .
  3. Respect your son, do not make fun of him, or the things he does or says. You must properly value everything he does. This will make you feel like a very special and unique person.
  4. If you find time to share it with him, you will be telling him how important it is to you.
  5. Highlight his qualities and don’t beat him up with his flaws.
  6. If he does something well, you should tell him so that he can increase his confidence . If he does something wrong, you also have to let him know, but looking for a way to say it without hurting his feelings or making him feel worthless.
  7. You must be objective in your judgments and realistic, because if the praise is excessive they will not help you at all.
  8. All parents love their children, but this is not enough. You have to show your affection by praising the virtues of the child, and being affectionate with caresses, kisses and hugs. The child needs physical contact: It gives him security and confidence.
  9. One of the biggest mistakes, which almost all parents make, is the continuous comparison with siblings , friends or family. The child must grow without looking for comparisons with those around him.
  10. If he does something wrong, do not make global disqualifications: “You are worthless” or “You are useless”. Just point out what he has done wrong.
  11. Parents always want the best for our children, but we must be realistic and not create unrealistic expectations that they can never achieve. This will only make him feel frustrated.

On the other hand, if the expectations you place on him are very low or you do not instill in him the need to set goals, he will think that he is useless and of no use at all.

Father improving his daughter’s self-esteem.

Other considerations to promote self-esteem.

Ask for your child’s opinion.

In family gatherings, and depending on the age of your child, it is good to let him intervene. Raise problems and let him give his opinion and provide solutions. You will feel that your opinion is important, that it is taken into account by the family and in short it will improve your self-esteem.

Avoid physical punishment.

Physical punishment is inappropriate and counterproductive when the child does something wrong. Nothing is achieved with physical punishment, except damaging his self-esteem and generating in him the seed of a possible abuser. In addition, physical punishment will considerably worsen the affective relationship with the father who gives the punishment.

Encourage him to make decisions.

Let him make decisions, take (small) risks, get right and wrong. Praise his performance when he succeeds and encourage him to continue when he fails and teach him that something positive can be learned from all mistakes.

Promote autonomy and independence.

The autonomy of the child and his independence must be promoted. Overprotection must be avoided. Let him take initiative, investigate and experiment. Simply monitor from a discreet distance to prevent you from taking dangerous risks. With this attitude you will get the child to believe in their abilities.

Let him solve his problems.

There is a popular saying that says that “Nobody teaches someone else’s head.” This means that a person learns from his own mistakes. In this sense, you must give your son the initiative to solve his problems and make his decisions. If before the slightest problem a caring father appears willing to solve it, your child will never learn to be self-sufficient.

Set realistic goals and objectives.

It is a good decision to encourage children to set goals and objectives that are realistic and achievable. Make them proud of their personal successes and accomplishments. When it fails, don’t let it get discouraged, praise the effort made. Teach him to be persistent, as he will increase his confidence, when after new attempts he achieves his goals.

Do not underestimate their successes.

All people have positive aspects and qualities. Do not underestimate his achievements and blame him for other failures. If he is good at sports and bad at studies, praise his athletic ability when he does well. There should be time for everything and also to praise their sporting successes, even if they have poor grades. There will be other times to encourage him with his studies.


For his future development, the way in which the child perceives his qualities and makes an objective portrait of his values ​​is of incalculable importance.

To achieve this goal (develop high self-esteem) you have to show true affection with words and deeds. You have to convey respect and appreciation of their actions. You must show interest in their activities and listen to their opinions. You should be encouraged to set realistic goals. Help you to be independent and enjoy your own autonomy.

Final note:

For those who are already parents and have tried to follow these rules, I must say that it is much easier to write these lines than to put them into practice. Cheer up!

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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