Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

The Role of Self-Esteem in Good Social Skills

Much research has been published in recent years stressing the importance of high self-esteem to a child’s emotional development. You may already know that self-esteem is important, but you may not know how to help your child develop high self-esteem.

This series of blog posts will focus on how self-esteem affects the quality of your child’s peer relationships and how you, as a parent, can help your child feel good about himself. Once your child has acquired high self-esteem, it will be much easier for him to establish the kind of friendships he needs.

“You can’t love others until you love your-self” is as true for friendship as it is for love. “You can’t have a friend until you are a friend.”

The children I work with give these definitions of self-esteem:

  • “It’s how we feel about ourselves”
  • “If you have self-esteem, you like yourself”
“I’m okay so I have it”

When we think about self-esteem, we usually think about it in terms of thoughts and feelings about ourselves. What we sometimes forget is that self-esteem also refers to feelings of competency and control.

Children with low self-esteem feel no empowerment; they feel that no matter what they do, they can’t make a difference. If good things happen to children with low self-esteem, they believe it was a fluke. When bad things happen to them, they think it was bad luck or someone else’s fault.

For example, a child with low self-esteem might say,
“I only caught that fly ball because it came right to me.” A child with high self-esteem would say,
“I caught that fly because I’ve been practicing a lot with my dad.”

A child with learning difficulties who has low self-esteem might say, “I flunked that test because the teacher hates me.” The child with high self-esteem will take responsibility for his own actions and say, “I didn’t study hard enough for that test. Next time I’m giving myself more time to prepare.”

A child with low self-esteem and difficulty making friends might say, “All the kids in class are mean to me because they are jerks!” A child with high self-esteem who has the same peer problems might say, “Gee, I wonder how I could change my behavior so that others will like me.”

Children with little self-assurance will make different social choices than children who believe in themselves. Those with low self-esteem tend to choose others with poor self-esteem. These choices have consequences, which can further lower self-esteem. And so the cycle continues.

Over the next month I will be blogging and providing tips to help your child develop a high self-esteem.


Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP

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