As a Childcare Provider you know how wonderful it is when you smile at an infant and they smile back. Smiling at an infant is one of the first things you can do to build the child’s self-esteem. Building a good self-esteem is essential for a child to be able to cope with challenges that arise as they learn to socialize with others and as they grow and learn new skills. Learning what they are capable of and how to interact with others helps them to develop a positive self-concept.
As a child grows, they are always trying new things, many times they have to try it over and over again in order to master a skill. A healthy self-esteem is closely tied into how loved and encouraged a child feels. As a childcare provider, you have a huge impact on your child’s self-perception. Children are very sensitive to the way their caregiver speaks to them. Even though praise and encouragement are important, make sure you are honest and truthful with your praise. Saying “good job” is helpful but being specific can help the child more. For example, “Good job throwing the ball, and I love how hard you try to catch it”. You might even want to tell the child how hard it was for you to learn to catch a ball. Praising a child’s efforts is often more important than praising their accomplishments. Praising their efforts gives them the strength to keep trying. As the child grows there are many areas where they need to develop self-esteem.
As a child succeeds in mastering a task their self-esteem grows. There are many opportunities during the day where you can help a child build self-esteem. For example: When a child is learning to zipper their jacket. Make sure you give the child enough time to try to zipper their jacket. This may be frustrating at times, especially when you have other children waiting anxiously to go out the door. Try to make opportunities to promote the child’s independence.
It is important to look for opportunities to allow the child to be independent and gain self-esteem. For example: Taking jackets on and off, hanging coats on accessible hooks, pouring their own juice, and clearing their place after lunch are just some of the self-help skills that provide independence and foster positive self-esteem. It’s tempting, especially when you are tending to multiple children to do everything for the children, however, by giving the children opportunity to do things for themselves, they are gaining the courage to try things they may never have attempted to do before.
Children who are allowed to make mistakes in a safe and supportive environment will go on to develop self-reliance and self-esteem, which are both instrumental components in early learning. There is no question that allowing small children to pour their own milk, for example, can in some cases be considered more work for you. However, when you understand that you are assisting your child in their healthy growth and development it makes it worthwhile.
SOCIAL SKILLS AND FRIENDSHIP
Children need to learn to be comfortable with other children and adults. Toddlers do not socialize with peers naturally. They are still very self-centered and do not understand the concept of sharing until almost three years old. Arguments are bound to start. However, it is important that you model good relationships with others in front of the children. Acknowledge the child’s feelings, show the toddler how they should react to situations. For example, “I see you are angry because _________ but it’s not Ok to hit. Let’s use our words instead”. As the child learns to control their feelings and actions, make sure you notice and praise them. For example, “I know you were angry because you ________but I so proud of you that you asked for a turn instead of hitting John.” This will encourage and reinforce the right choices.
Trust is closely linked with a healthy self-esteem. Children need to be able to trust others in order to trust themselves. When a child can anticipate that their needs will be acknowledged and responded to, trust will follow. Consistency of care on the part of the caregiver is so important to fostering trust in the child. When the child develops a good sense of trust, they are more able to take risks. You can foster this in the children you care for by being positive and modeling positive behaviors in your interaction with people.
As the child builds trust they develop a positive self-concept and become encouraged to try new things. They begin to view their parents, you and other adults as a source of support.
WHAT WE SAY AND HOW WE SAY IT MATTERS
Occasionally caregivers can create barriers for children and chip away at their self-esteem without even realizing it. Stereotypes and labels such as “baby”, “lazy” and “trouble” make children feel insecure. Put-downs, comparisons, criticisms, and over-protection can further handicap children.
• Accept the child for who he is and what he is. Your acceptance will lead to feelings of self-acceptance in the child.
• Set clear, reasonable rules and expectations of behavior. When children have boundaries and know what behavior is expected of them, they tend to develop higher self-esteem.
• Encourage autonomy and independence in children. Know when to “let go”.
• Give children freedom to enjoy themselves, to explore, to be creative, and to laugh.
• Allow children to make decisions and accept responsibility.
• Provide a secure environment where children can feel safe and freely express their feelings and opinions.
• Model respect for all children, regardless of their race sex, religion, or ethnic background.
• Try to provide as many experiences as possible in which children can be successful.
• Encourage children to try new things and to take risks.
• Have realistic expectations for the children. Know what they are developmentally capable of doing.
• Replace discouraging remarks and criticism with encouragement and compliments.
• Help the children see how they are unique and special. Discuss different physical attributes, personality traits, talents, and interests.
• Talk to the children about being multi-dimensional. For example, “I’m pretty good at singing, but I still have to work on my letters.” Point out all the things that the children do well.
• Don’t expect any child to be perfect. Show him it is all right to fail and help him learn how to deal with his mistakes and learn from failure.
• Do not make insulting or negative remarks about a child in their presence, and don’t allow them to downgrade themselves or others.
• Be enthusiastic and optimistic about life. Think positive thoughts about yourself and the children.
• Praise and reinforce the child to let him know that you recognize his worth
• Give your children lots of smiles and positive reinforcement. Be patient.
As a provider, you deal with many parents who are stressed, in a hurry, and dealing with multiple issues. There may be occasions when a parent is short tempered with the child or even calls them a derogatory name. What can you do? Arrange a time to talk to the parent when the child is not present. perhaps call them after the child has gone to bed. Do not start your conversation with a negative such as, “you are hurting your child’s self-esteem!” You might say, “I know pick up time is difficult for you and your child. I have a couple of suggestions to make it easier.” Then brainstorm with the parent ways in which you and the parent might work together to help the child make an easier transition.