5 Ways To Build Self-Worth In Children

Self-worth, or the intrinsic feeling of being good enough and deserving of love and respect, in my opinion, is one of the most important (if not the most important!) attributes a person can have. A person’s self-worth underpins their decisions, relationships, thoughts, and feelings and in many instances, contributes to the different outcomes – both positive and negative – in life. The impact of having a lack of self-worth can be so detrimental because ultimately a person’s choices in life will be strongly influenced by how they truly feel about themselves deep inside.  

Examples Of How A Lack Of Self-Worth Could Potentially Impact A Person  

  • An inability to get their own needs met or to put themselves first due to a belief that they are not deserving of it. 
  • An inability to assert boundaries in relationships and/or to walk away from people who are no good for them due to an internal belief that they don’t deserve better. 
  • Negative self-talk and self-depreciation. 
  • Holding themselves back from fulfilling their potential due to an inability to see their brilliance. 
  • Difficulty in taking risks, stepping out of their comfort zone and/or being known as a perfectionist. This will often be a subconscious attempt to avoid failure because despite failure being a stepping-stone to success and a natural (and inevitable) part of learning and growing, to a person with low self-worth, it will feel unbearable because it will only act as a validation of their existing belief that they are useless and of no value.  

The list goes on and on, which is why I believe that nurturing a child’s self-worth is crucial because it will underpin every decision, relationship, and choice they make throughout life. If we want children to reach for the stars and to be the best that they can be, we need to first and foremost instil the belief in them that they are capable and deserving of all that life has to offer them because the more a child believes in themselves, the bolder, the more discerning and the braver they will be.  

Five Ways To Build Self-Worth In Children

1. Treat them like they are the most amazing person 

In the words of Pam Leo, every child needs at least one person who believes the sun rises and sets on them. Having worked with thousands of children over the years – many with challenging behaviour – I have come to realise that when we as adults treat them like they are wonderful, they often, in time, end up living up to this. Children will always test boundaries and they must learn about cause and effect and consequences. However, if we make the undertone of our communication with them reflect our belief that they are an amazing person regardless of their mistakes, they will learn harsh life lessons with their self-worth intact. This doesn’t mean that we let things slide and praise them at times when they are making negative choices. It simply means that our words do not diminish their character in the process of setting boundaries and that they encourage children to align their actions with who we know they are – fantastic human beings!

2. Make them feel safe 

It is natural for children to experience a plethora of big feelings and it’s important for them to feel safe enough to express them. At a young age, children are not equipped with the ability to regulate their emotions, therefore at these times of imbalance, it is not only crucial that we share our calm instead of losing control and adding to the chaos, but that we support them to gain balance within their emotional state. We also need to provide a safe space for children to explore and express their emotions because this will teach them that their feelings are valid and worthy. If children learn that their negative emotions lead to them being belittled or rejected, there is a strong chance that they will learn to suppress their feelings in a bid for acceptance. Over time, this could become their default setting and result in people-pleasing behaviour, or an inability to see the importance of their own needs. 

3. Spend time with them  

Spending time with children, taking an interest in the things they enjoy and giving them your undivided attention without distractions gives them a feeling of importance in your life and shows them that they truly matter. In this fast-paced world, we often find ourselves multitasking and having a to-do list the length of our arm can make it difficult to stand still and pause. However, for children to feel seen and heard, we must give them some time throughout the day when we are free of any distractions. Even just 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with a child, where they are the sole focus of your attention can be powerful because it makes them feel like a priority and in turn, builds their self-worth.

4. Build their confidence and Self-Worth

Praising children and giving them credit when it’s due is so important when it comes to building a child’s worth. Using positive language, reminding them of the greatness you see in them and telling them that you believe in them will encourage them to do the same. We become what we believe, therefore we must do everything we can to highlight children’s strengths and build them up so that they have the confidence and self-belief to step into their unique brilliance and reach their potential.

5. Tell them you are proud of them 

Throughout my teaching career, the words ‘I am proud of you’ have always lit up children’s faces the most. There is something so powerful and wholesome about this statement and when said with sincerity, it holds so much weight and meaning. Out of all the phrases that can be used, I feel that this is the one that builds up children’s worth the most because it validates them and shows them that they hold value in your heart.  

These are just a few ways in which I believe we can build children’s self-worth. However, the list could go on. Ultimately, I feel it’s important to realise how much a person’s self-worth can affect them throughout life and as parents, teachers, and childcare providers I think it’s important to understand the impact it can have. Every decision we make, the relationships we hold and how we show up in the world will directly correlate to our inner dialogue and the beliefs we consciously and subconsciously have about ourselves. If we believe we hold value as a person and that we have something to offer the world, we are more likely to succeed and create a life that reflects this. However, if we believe we are worthless, there’s a good chance that we will find ourselves in situations or surrounded by people who validate and reflect this lack of worth.  

The beliefs we hold as adults are created in childhood and are the silent guides for all that we become. If we want children to grow into confident and self-assured adults, we need our actions and words to programme them with supporting beliefs when they are younger and in my opinion, self-worth is at the core of every good decision we can and will make throughout life. 

Visit Stacey Kelly’s website here: https://www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/

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