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Children With Low Self Esteem

How do you change the thinking of children that have always been told that they were ugly, fat, stupid. Now they have a very low self esteem about themselves and are starting to act out.

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Building Children's Self Esteem - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Self Esteem in children is something that accumulates - and of course as you are saying, the same in reverse, if a child is constantly being put down, or criticized, their self esteem takes a knocking.

You have not given any background to the situation - are they your children? Who is putting them down? Is it a parent or someone they have a lot of contact with? Are they still in the situation where they are hearing constant negative messages?

You can't control the other people in the children's lives, though you can set up your home to be a "No Putdown Zone" assuming you can get the cooperation of other family members. Setting the tone for how we treat others will help the children to learn how to treat people with respect, and begin to have an impact on their own negative internal voices.

From what you say, they are likely to be telling themselves similar messages, when kids get a diet of put downs, they start to tell themselves the same things.

You can help them by making a point of noticing all the good things they do, all they ways they are contributing and all their good characteristics. But even more importantly, let them know they are loved regardless of whether they are good, skinny, or clever. Kids need unconditional love - they need to know they are loved even if they stuff up, or even if they are not perfect.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Building Children's Self Esteem - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Whoever has been constantly putting them down, has not had that themselves, and is someone who has grown up believing they only got approval if they measured up in certain ways.

Most likely they never felt loved and accepted themselves, and they are treating these children the only way they know.

Kids also learn a lot from how we treat ourselves. If a child sees a parent who is putting herself down, or obsessed with body image, or clearly has self esteem issues, then they are going to take a lot of that on board. If Mom doesn't like what she sees in the mirror, the kids won't either.

So first of all make sure you model good self esteem to the children. Celebrate when you do something well, say when you feel good about yourself. But also, when you make a mistake, laugh about it, and show how you learn from it, rather than feeling bad or putting yourself down. If kids see significant people in their lives loving themselves no matter what, then that goes a long way to helping them to learn those skills too.

You can do self esteem building activities and games at the dinner table. Everyone says something they were proud of themselves about today, or something they like about themselves.

An alternative is everyone says something affirming to someone else. If a child can't come up with anything, then you find something for the day that you noticed. Particularly notice when the child has struggled with something and how they dealt with it and affirm their effort.
"I noticed how Julie tried really hard with her homework, even though math is something she finds challenging." "She did a great job of working her way through it, and asked for help when she got stuck."

Making it a good thing to ask for help, or making it clear that trying and learning are just as important as actually mastering.

Of course we also need to notice mastery and acknowledge achievements, and help a child to stretch themselves further. But when a child has got a negative mind set, they stop trying and even little steps need reinforcing and encouraging.

Part Three Follows . . . .

Building Children's Self Esteem - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You also show your belief in them, statements like:
"I know you can figure this out."
"I'm sure you can find a way round this, who could help you?"
"I know you can do this, it might take some practice, but I totally believe in you."
"You are getting so much better at . . . . I'm so proud of the way you have been practicing."

Depending on the age of the child give them some responsibility. My kids started cooking full meals by aged seven, and in their early teens were responsible for two meals per week. As they tested things out and practiced skills, with very little interference from me, their confidence grew. Find areas of expertise that they can be in charge of - setting up a set of instructions for recording DVDs is a good one for an older child, many parents struggle to drive the darn things!

When children feel they have something of value to contribute the start to feel better about themselves. Getting them involved in community activities where they are volunteering - an animal shelter, old folks home, or caring for the
environment. They will learn heaps of new social skills in different situations, and taking care of someone or something else and feeling they are making a difference in the world contributes hugely to self esteem.

Another tool that is a good way to clear negative messages, and build in affirmations about self esteem, is EFT. EFT is a tapping sequence that helps to clear any issues, and we can also use it to tap in affirmations to help them "stick".

You can read more about EFT on our EFT pages, or there is a Parents Manual available to purchase that helps parents to teach EFT to kids, with tapping scripts, and a forum for additional support etc.

To read more about using affirmations to help build children's self esteem, visit our Affirmation pages.

Part Four Follows . . .

Building Children's Self Esteem - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

I hope this has given you some ideas to help with building these kids up - feel free to comment back with more information if you want more ideas. Give me some background about their ages and situation etc.

But most of all, love them and surround them with your belief and support and create plenty of time for them to talk and share how they feel. Listening to them shows them you value them and what they say is important, and that goes a long way to creating healthy self esteem.

Good luck,
Annie D :)

Reply Re Self Esteem
by: georgia087

Hi :) I know the feeling when your self-esteem is battered and you don't want to go to school anymore and just stay in your room all day.

I was like that once upon a time. I was always told that I was fat by a close friend and even my relatives. I came to a point where I was crash dieting and just starving myself. I parents found out about and helped me get back up.

I went to counseling and they even sent me to summer camp at one point to meet new people. It helped somehow, and now I just don't bother so much about what people are saying.

The process was long but I got there. :)

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