As parents, we all want our children to feel good about themselves. Research has shown that self-esteem is critically linked to success. We’ve also learned much more about how to foster self-esteem in our children in recent years. For young children, one of the best ways to nurture self-esteem is through play.
The Importance Of Nurturing Self Esteem Through Play
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Self Esteem is Key to a Happy Healthy Life
A study conducted by Ulrich Orth, professor of psychology at Basel University, and scientists at the University of California, looked at the role of self-esteem in success. They analyzed the data of 1,824 people aged 16-97.
They knew that success and self-esteem were linked, but they had a question. Did self-esteem bring success, or did success increase self-esteem? The study found that self-esteem held steady over the years, regardless of what was going on in a person’s life.
The scientists ultimately concluded that the higher self-esteem a person possessed, the greater their chance at a successful relationship. They also have better work and health outcomes than those with lower self-esteem.
On the other end of the spectrum, those with low self-esteem are more likely to develop addictions. The study “Internet addiction among adolescents: the role of self-esteem” looked at teens and internet addiction found a strong link between self-esteem and internet addiction. Another study, conducted by Hamid Reza Alavi found a link between self-esteem, drug abuse and criminal offenses.
A Chance to Win
Playing games with your child is a great way to build their self-esteem. If you have a child younger than 5, it’s appropriate to let them win at times. Perhaps they find you in hide and seek, or beat you at Go Fish. It is important to teach them how to lose gracefully as well, however. Play on their level, winning some and losing some.
Around the time a child reaches 5 years old, things change. Letting them win can actually undermine their self-esteem. Of course, so can losing every time. One way to provide balance is to play games of chance.
Hi-Ho! Cherry-O and Candy Land are more about chance than skill, giving young players an equal footing. You can also play more difficult games, like Monopoly Jr. This will teach them about losing, and inspire them to improve their game. Play games of chance as well as skill. Kids need to lose at around 5 years old. With younger children, it’s ok to let win some of the time, but not all of the time.
Challenging But Doable
Part of building self-esteem in your child is allowing them to overcome challenges. Some challenges they need to overcome on their own. While with other challenges, they will need a helping hand.
It’s important to select toys and activities that your child can master, but not always easily.
Puzzles are an excellent opportunity for your child to persevere. For a toddler, a simple wooden puzzle can be a challenge. For an older child, a 100-piece puzzle may be appropriate. Perhaps you can teach them how to connect the outer pieces, and then allow them to put the inside of the puzzle together themselves.
Open Ended Play
Open-ended play is child led. Instead of focusing on a specific expectation or outcome, open-ended play allows children to be creative and do things their own way. This can increase self-esteem by allowing your child to make decisions and test ideas in a safe way.
To foster open-ended play, give your child access to simple materials. This can include clay, wet sand, or even empty boxes. Let their imagination direct what they become and what your child does with them.
Young children spend a lot of time attempting to understand the world around them. It’s natural to fear what we don’t understand, and our children are no exception. Imaginative play allows them to explore their world and step into different roles.
For example, playing doctor can make them more comfortable at their next checkup. Pretend cooking at a kids toy kitchen can make them feel more grown up, as they imagine themselves taking care of themselves and others by providing food.
It gives them an opportunity to problem solve as well. They may come up with problems on their own, or you may give them one occasionally. “Oh no! We are out of hamburger buns. What should we do now?” It’s a wonderful experience to watch your child’s face light up as they work through the problem. “We can use tomatoes instead of buns!”
Playgrounds have an element of danger and unpredictability. This can cause parents’ hearts to race, despite safety improvements to playground equipment in recent years. It also provides children with challenges and fears to overcome. Risky play is an important part of child development!
Swinging on a swing or crossing a rope bridge can be a scary prospect. When your child overcomes their fear, their confidence and self-esteem grows.
Playgrounds also provide a chance for children to connect with each other. Peer interaction is crucial for healthy self-esteem. Taking turns on a swing, for example, can help them learn conflict resolution and sharing. Pushing each other on the merry go round can develop teamwork skills.
These skills have a feedback loop with self-esteem. Self-esteem helps equip kids to learn these skills, and learning the skills adds to self-esteem.
Self-esteem is essential for children and adults. Without it, children grow up to make bad choices and fall into dangerous behaviors like substance abuse. When your child builds healthy self-esteem, it will help them through the tough spots in their adult life. It also helps them make friends, learn, and experience the world.
Author Bio: Dr Harshi is a licensed medical doctor with specialization in Pathology. She is currently employed as faculty in a medical school with tertiary care hospital and research center in India. She has vast experience of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work. She has strong interest in medical content writing and reviewing. She also has several publications and citations in indexed peer reviewed journals.