A strong sense of self-worth can aid in self-compassion, compassion for others and in achieving personal fulfillment. When a person does not hold a favorable view of himself or herself, they are vulnerable to experiencing anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, neurosis and addiction.
Parents and caregivers influence how children view themselves. The most formative years in a child’s psychological development are in the first 3 years of life. During this time it is crucial that children feel secure, physically, psychologically and socially and that parents are aware of who is influencing their children’s development when they are not around.
Self-Worth Can Be Destroyed By:
- Labeling a child - Labeling a child can cause them to embody the label that is put onto them. This is why talking about a child negatively in front of them feeds negative behavior, aside from being extremely hurtful for them to hear.
- Ruling from the top
- Having one parent make the majority of decisions regarding disciplinary styles and methods. A family is a union of each person’s views and opinions. Children are taught how to work well with others through what they learn in their families and having one person control most decisions stifles this learning process.
- Not allowing children to express themselves.
- Talking down to children - Verbal or psychological abuse. Examples: using the accusatory “You,” “You always act up when we are in public.” “You are not smart enough.”
- Living through children – Continually signing a child up for activities that they have no interest in will cause them to feel adrift in adulthood and lose their path in life.
- Spoiling – When parents overcompensate in one way with food or material items, children may be neglected in other ways that are more valuable.
- Being a buddy – When parents do not allow a child to have limits and proper boundaries, it may lead to inappropriate indulgences in childhood and beyond.
- Neglect on any level – Depriving a child access to basic human needs such as food, shelter, safety (leaving a young child unattended for a long period of time) or withholding love.
Reflection: Take a moment to think of labels that were put on you that eventually defined who you thought you were:
Positive labels are clearly better than negative ones, however sometimes they cause pressure for a child to live up to unrealistic standards or may confuse them as to what the person labeling them means. An effective way of complimenting a child is to say something specific about what they did.
Have the compliment be direct, not general like, "you're a good girl." Instead, compliment a child by saying, "you studied really hard for that test and look how well you did!" "Look how determined you were putting your train set together, it looks great.” Furthermore, if you say "Remarkable," or "How smart!” "What a joy you are!” at the very moment of favorable behavior, the child will understand why you are complementing them.
The Importance of Self-Worth
Self-worth helps a person to look outside of the box and take risks in life. Encouraging healthy self-worth in children is essential because it helps them to be inner-directed and strive for validation from within. When parents care for their children on multiple levels especially emotionally, they are guiding them to follow a fulfilling path throughout their lives. In doing so they will trust their internal voice and not need validation from outsiders. By listening to children, valuing their opinions and spending quality time with them parents can teach them to trust in their decisions and stand by what they believe in.
Branden, N. (2001). The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding that Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Major, J.A. (2001). Breakthrough Parenting: A Revolutionary New Way to Raise Children. Quality Books Inc.