Practices That Help Children Develop Authentic Self-Esteem
Adults use specific practices that affect a child’s self-esteem. Authoritative, supportive adults use strategies that enhance children’s self-esteem. Enhancing practices help children develop authentic—healthy, positive, and realistic—self-esteem. Nonsupportive adults use strategies that degrade or humiliate children, thus contributing to the development of negative self-esteem (Pawlak & Klein, 1997). Other adults focus on activities that ultimately foster narcissism or excessively self-centered views of the self.
Believe in and Adopt an Authoritative Caregiving Style
Authoritative caregivers are demanding in an appropriate way. They are also highly responsive to what children need. The authoritative style helps children comply with (obey) reasonable limits and assists them to be more helpful and cooperative and less aggressive.
Authoritative adults also help children develop positive self-esteem (Kernis et al., 2000; Pawlak & Klein, 1997). Parents and teachers are most likely to help children develop healthy self-esteem by combining acceptance, affection, high but reasonable expectations, and limits on children’s behavior and effort (Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991). Children also have a better chance of developing healthy self-esteem when parents have little conflict in their marriages (Pawlak & Klein, 1997).
Plan Appropriate Activities That Are Deserving of Children’s Time
You really do not need to plan “cute activities” intended to boost self-esteem. In fact, cute activities are frequently developmentally inappropriate. Katz (1993) believes that children are most likely to develop authentic self-esteem when they participate in activities for which they can make real decisions and contributions. The project approach helps children focus on real topics, environments, events, and objects that are deserving of a young child’s time and effort. Developmentally appropriate activities help a child see herself as connected to others, as a hard worker, as kind and helpful, and as a problem solver. These are enduring traits that will help children develop a healthy sense of self and self-esteem.
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