Self-esteem is an essential aspect of a child's development, as it shapes their perception of themselves and their ability to cope with challenges in life. It is crucial for children to have healthy self-esteem, as it helps them to form positive relationships, develop resilience, and achieve their goals. However, self-esteem can be fragile, especially in children who are still developing their sense of identity. Therefore, it is essential to build self-esteem in children in a strengths and values-based way. Moving away from rewards and moving towards an authentic, strong, sense of self worth.
What is strengths and values-based self-esteem?
Strengths and values-based self-esteem focuses on building self-esteem in children by identifying and nurturing their unique strengths and values and to help children use them to develop a positive sense of self. When children feel valued and recognised for their strengths and abilities, they are more likely to have a positive self-image and a sense of self-worth.
Why is strengths and values-based self-esteem important?
More than ever before society utilises reward systems, from home to school they are everywhere, but what is the cost of relying on rewards to boost a child's sense of pride in themselves? If rewards are used more than ever before then why are there so many children presenting with low-self-esteem, social anxiety and poor mental health? There are so many social changes over the past 25 years that all of these points need to be considered, one being social media and screen time, but we can't make changes to buffer their impact. We want children to recognise their unique qualities and abilities, which helps them to feel confident and empowered. Children who have a positive self-image based on their strengths and values are more likely to set and achieve goals, alongside being able to persevere when faced with challenges.
Strengths and values-based self-esteem helps children to develop true resilience. When children face setbacks or failures, they can draw on their strengths and values to bounce back and keep trying. This resilience can help children to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, even when faced with adversity. It helps them to know that they have the tools they need within themselves to cope with difficult emotions that show up in life, this prevents the fear they have around feeling them in the first place.
Finally, strengths and values-based self-esteem helps children to form positive relationships. When children feel confident in themselves and their abilities, they are more likely to engage in social interactions and develop meaningful relationships with others. Children who have a positive self-image based on their strengths and values are more likely to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards others, which can lead to stronger and more fulfilling relationships. They are less likely to make decisions based on what they need to do to 'fit in' because they understand what matters to them, what they value in life, and therefore makes choices based on those values.
How can parents and caregivers build strengths and values-based self-esteem in children?
There are many different ways that parents and caregivers can build strengths and values-based self-esteem in children. Mostly it's about taking a holistic approach, encouraging children to explore and identify their unique strengths and abilities through play and conversation. When a parent shows an interest in what their child is interested in (even if they're not) that allows a space for the child to explore why they are interested in it.
Hobbies. Expensive activities are not accessible for many yet their are so many great community organisations that do provide different experiences for children. Allowing them to discover and pursue interests is something that schools can play a huge part in, making sure that opportunities are inclusive and fair.
Being outside. Climbing trees, playing independently and exploring, building things, making mistakes and having choices. All of these valuable experiences are vital for nurturing authentic self-esteem, they provide opportunity for problem solving and 'trying again', for crying with frustration, but moving through the emotion and coming out the other side.
Parents and caregivers can help children to identify their values and beliefs, and to live in accordance with those values. For example, if a child values kindness and compassion, parents and caregivers can encourage them to engage in acts of kindness and to treat others with respect and empathy.
Finally, parents and caregivers can provide children with positive feedback and recognition for their strengths and values. Children are programmed to want to have a cause and effect on the world so knowing they can be listened to, and their values and ideas taken seriously, is a huge part that parents can play in helping children to feel confident to use their voice. This positive reinforcement is different from rewarding, it's noticing and, letting them know that you have noticed.
In conclusion, building self-esteem in children is essential for their development and long-term mental health, and a strengths and values-based approach is a powerful way to help them live a rich and fulfilling life, and do you know what else? Nurturing this kind of self-esteem helps us to build strong relationships with our child, getting to know them on a different level whilst watching them get to know themselves. It's a truly beautiful thing.
You can find out more about building children's self-esteem by booking our next group parent workshop here