While wanting your child to grow and develop into a happy, confident individual is normal for many parents, it's not always obvious how to help them achieve this goal. Every child is different, and even children within the same family may have varying needs and issues. Some considerations -- such as self-esteem -- are universally important for all children.
Self-esteem is, in its simplest definition, the way you feel about yourself. When children feel confident about themselves and their abilities, they have good self-esteem. Children who feel like they're not liked by family or peer groups or who tend to believe their efforts will lead to failure have poor self-esteem. Self-esteem is one measure of a children's overall mental health.
Self-esteem develops throughout your child's life and serves different purposes in different stages, according to the pediatric professionals at the KidsHealth website. For instance, babies develop persistence -- and the belief that they can accomplish things through effort -- when they learn how to roll over, sit and stand on their own after repeated efforts. Toddlers develop self-esteem as they reach milestones like dressing themselves or using the bathroom, which gives them the confidence to reach more milestones. As children get older, relationships with peers and other adults play a role in developing their self-esteem.
Self-esteem matters because it directly impacts the way children act every day, according to the National Network for Child Care. Your child's self-esteem affects his friendships with other children, his success in school, his ability to deal with problems and his overall confidence.
Helping your child develop good self-esteem has several benefits, according to the National Mental Health Information Center. Kids with healthy self-esteem are better equipped to deal with peer pressure and responsibility than kids who feel bad about themselves. Children with good self-esteem are also better able to deal with strong emotions, both good and bad, and to cope with challenges and frustrations when they arise.
Praise your children when they exhibit genuine effort or succeed in activities, and avoid criticizing your children by using shame or mockery. Encourage your children to think about decisions and their consequences, and let them try to solve their own problems instead of automatically jumping in to help them.