Children with low self-esteem feel that important adults and peers in their lives have constantly judged them on their performances and successes. They generally feel unloved and only valued when they please their parents. Although all children have a need and desire for positive self-esteem, they either feel satisfied by the approval they receive from others or are frustrated and feel unloved as a result of their disapproval.
A parent’s role should reflect one of a coach who realizes the full implications of their efforts on the child’s developing sense of self and then acts accordingly to reinforce it. When they use overly exaggerated empty praise and cheers of well-intended support, they merely lend to teaching children to rely on others’ judgments and opinions instead of forming their own beliefs based on their experiences.
Low self-esteem also results from parents who only offer acceptance when a child completes a task or meets a standard; the child only feels worthwhile when the standard is met. Because these standards are conditional, a child’s sense of self is not positively reassured and may then fear attempting new tasks in the future.
Although increasing self-esteem in children has been thought of as a cure for misbehaving children, parents must be conscious of not offering inflated or inappropriate praise. Children who hear how great they are regardless of their behaviors receive confusing, conflicting messages; these messages may induce feelings of grandiosity in the child. Parents and teachers might think this will increase the child’s self-esteem but being overly lenient and passive only increases their inner conflict and decreases their overall self-esteem. Although the parents may be fearful of setting limits for children who might become frustrated and angry, being too permissive decreases a child’s personal sense of accomplishment and instills a false sense of self-importance.