Scott Kleon, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Pickaway County
Carolyn Wilson, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Guernsey County
Developing positive self-esteem in children is an important responsibility for all adults who interact with them. When children feel good about themselves, they are better able to resist negative influences in their lives. Positive self-esteem enables children to grow up and be happy, responsible, and contributing adults.
Self-esteem is the value we place on what we believe to be true about ourselves; how we feel about ourselves; and/or an emotion we hold true about ourselves.
People with high self-esteem consider themselves worthy, and view themselves as equal to others. They recognize their limitations, expect to grow and improve, and do not pretend to be perfect.
Those low in self-esteem generally experience self-rejection, self-dissatisfaction, self-contempt, and self-disparagement. Low self-esteem can be a major factor in mental health problems, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and many other problems.
Characteristics of a person with high or positive self-esteem …
Characteristics of a person with low or negative self-esteem …
Trust is the basis of all human relationships. A person who has a well-developed sense of trust is able to take risks involved in learning to become a happy, successful person. In order for an individual to develop trust in others, he/she must have a series of positive encounters with the people who share his/her world.
Children begin to mold their self-images early in life. By creating environments in which children can feel secure about themselves and develop their strengths, adults can help children have those positive experiences.
Belonging is the feeling of being accepted by others. Individuals gain security when they feel like they belong to a group. Those feelings of security and acceptance help nurture self-esteem.
Purpose is an important part of one’s self-esteem development. Every individual needs to have a feeling of purpose or a mission in life.
The statement, “success breeds success,” is true in the development of healthy self-esteem in people. By identifying a problem or goal, by developing a plan of action, and by accomplishing an objective, children develop problem-solving skills, as well as a sense of pride. This in turn starts an interesting chain of events for children, including:
By providing learning opportunities and experiences throughout the building stages, adults can have a profound and positive influence on a child’s self-esteem. In the words of Jack Canfield, “Success will only result if the adult leader is a caring, capable, and lovable individual that can communicate a feeling of importance and self-worth to others. A positive self-esteem is extremely important to the individual. And teaching self-esteem, after all, is simply a way to help others overcome their negative ideas about themselves and to discover their unique potentials.”
One of the best ways to foster children’s self-esteem is to get them to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their experiences. Help children develop a personal and vested interest in their own activities by: 1) giving them the freedom to make mistakes; 2) finding ways for them to contribute to their learning experience; and 3) giving them choices.
You can help youth develop positive self-esteem by:
Encouraging members to take risks:
Providing a wide variety of opportunities:
Giving each member personal attention:
Volunteer leaders can have a profound effect on children’s positive self-esteem development. Children need positive, caring adult leaders that communicate a feeling of self-worth. Mahatma Gandhi once said that people “often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it at the beginning.” Adult leaders help youth by providing opportunities to be involved and achieve.
Loomans, D. & J. (2003). 100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Teach Values. H J Kramer, Tuburon, CA.
Branden, N. (1992). The Power of Self Esteem. Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, FL.
Canfield, J. (1988). Self-Esteem in the Classroom. Self Esteem Seminars, Culver City, CA.
Reasoner, R. (1982). Building Self-Esteem: A Comprehensive Program. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.
“Strategies for Building Self-Esteem in School and in Therapy.” Brown University Child Behavior and Development Letter. Feb. 1991.
Original Authors: This fact sheet was revised based upon the original work of Cripe, B. (1999). Building self-esteem. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.
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