Academics and Self Esteem

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The foundation of your child’s self esteem goes back to his infancy. You are the big confidence booster he needs from day one.

Self-esteem isn’t just something we suddenly experience. It’s a gradual process that surprisingly begins at infancy. The attention and focus you give to your kids when they are learning to walk and talk can impact them later on.

According to Abigail Stein, M.D., pediatrician at TriHealth Group Health Associates -Western Hills, says when babies learn you are there to feed, nurture and keep them safe is when their self-esteem begins to build.

“It can be hard to predict the moment that each individual child will start to have realizations,” says Stein. “We tend to think of the more classic signs of low self-esteem beginning in school age and pre-adolescence, but in reality, self-esteem struggles probably begin a lot earlier than that,” she says.

The moment you notice your kid may be thinking, “I’m not really good at this,” or “She has more friends than me,” can really put a parents’ abilities to the test, says Stein. It’s difficult to pinpoint when this realization happens for them. So do you dive right in and reassure them they are good at that thing or they do indeed have just as many friends? Not quite.

“While this might help in the moment, over time, it will only provide them with a fragile sense of self-worth that is based on, ‘I am good because someone said that I am,’” explains Stein. “Throughout their lives, kids are going to be exposed to all kinds of teachers, coaches, peers and other parents, and unfortunately, we can’t shield them from mistakes, failures and criticisms.”

Instead, explain that failing and making mistakes is completely normal and part of life. Save the white lies and instead focus on their effort and work ethic from the get-go. This way, you arm them to understand that it is OK to not be the best at everything or to not fit in with all the kids at school.

You set up a foundation for them to build a strong self-esteem.

Self-Esteem and Learning

If you’re concerned about your kids’ academic performance, it may be time to take a step back and get to the core of the problem.

“Self-esteem and confidence absolutely play a role in school performance and academics, which can manifest in a variety of both positive and negative ways,” says Stein.

If your kid is struggling with self-esteem, this can lead to problems such as anxiety and distraction in the classroom, giving up easily and getting immediately frustrated with certain topics they just can’t grasp, inability to bounce back from mistakes and more. Help shift their focus to their ability to meet new challenges and grow rather than the end result. Studies have actually shown that kids who are praised for their effort with a task are more likely to pursue more challenging learning opportunities than those who are praised for doing a task well, according to Stein.

“The more you focus on their ability to meet challenges, grow, and persevere, the more your child’s self-esteem and confidence will reflect their internal drive and capacity to rise above difficult situations (ie resilience),” she continues.

Help Build Your Kids’ Self Esteem

It’s important to know that self-esteem struggles are normal for kids. However, when they get in the way of living their normal kid life (affecting his grades, nutrition, relationships with family and peers, activities etc.) it may be time to step in.

First things first, contact your pediatrician if you are concerned about his self-esteem. They can refer you to centers specific to helping coach parents through many challenges (including self-esteem issues) such as Beech Acres Parenting Center.

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of two. If you don't see her writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.

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