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Healthy self-esteem still counts......

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In Thriving! I wrote how self-esteem is a greater predictor of a child’s success than intellectual ability or natural talent.

Numerous studies support this notion. For instance, a longitudinal study by The London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance followed the fortunes of all babies born in a particular week in Britain. There was clear evidence that children with a higher self-esteem at the age of 10 got more kick to their earning power later in life than those with higher maths, reading and other academic abilities.

The study found that ‘high self-esteemers’ had less chance of being unemployed later in life and if they were, they would soon be back in the workforce.

Parents and teachers intuitively know that feelings of self-worth and positive self-esteem are important. But what is self-esteem and how do you know if your child has healthy self-esteem or not?

Self-esteem is a healthy and optimistic view of one’s value. If a child evaluates him or herself positively and realistically rather than negatively and unrealistically then it is usually deemed that they have healthy self-esteem.

Most of the research available tells us that children with healthy self-esteem do the following:

1. Take reasonable risks. They will try new tasks even if success is not assured.

2. Display favourable attitudes to others. Children with healthy self-esteem don’t need to put others down to feel competent

3. Generally behave well. They do not have to find their place in their family or in groups through misbehaviour.

4. Highlight their own strengths, successes and skills. They don’t put themselves down nor do they exaggerate their own skills or successes to gain a sense of superiority.

5. Downplay and accept mistakes, failure and imperfections. They don’t dwell on mistakes or failure. Mistakes are part of learning, just ask any golfer.

6. Are willing to try and show initiative. Conversely, children with low self-esteem give up easily or show little confidence in areas that are new.

7. Acknowledge their own contributions to success. They take realistic credit for their successes without be boastful or saying that any achievement happened due to luck or good fortune.

8. Compare themselves to similar children or young people, not glossy images. It is natural and healthy to compare yourself to others but the choice of yardstick is critical. Those with low self-esteem tend to use unrealistic figures as a yardstick for success.

9. Have a positive outlook and use positive language. Take note of the language a child or young person uses. Healthy self-esteemers know how to positive track or reframe negative situations into a positive.

10. Believe that personal limitations can be worked on. Children with healthy self-esteem know that success is linked with effort. That is, hard work is no guarantee of success but it certainly increases its likelihood.

In the past it was thought that we could enhance self-esteem by simply making a child feel good about themselves. This is too simplistic indeed.

The building blocks of self-esteem include the following four aspects:
• positive parent, family and teacher interactions and expectations
• positive peer interactions
• coping skills and,
• successes that show competence and mastery.

Parents and teachers need a range of skills and strategies to help children develop a healthy self-esteem and maintain it even when events conspire to really challenge them.

Self-esteem building is important as the way a child perceives him or herself is far more important in determining future outcomes than pure ability and academic competence.

There's a heap of resources at www.parentingideas.com.au to help you build healthy self-esteem in your kids.

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