developing self-esteem in infancy

Building a healthy self-esteem in infants, toddlers and preschoolers

Part 2 of 4

Your child is depending on you for nurturing and protection. As you provide for his needs, he learns to trust. A warm, comfortable, secure, trusting atmosphere is the foundation to healthy self-esteem.

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Your child learned to sense how you felt before he learned to understand what you said. Hugs, smiles, cuddling, singing and laughing made him happy. Being left alone, wet, hungry or seeing frowns made him unhappy.

Toddlers feel good about themselves when they are free to do things for themselves. Your child's stubborn insistence that "I can do it" is part of his independence. An important task for a toddler is toilet training, a task that requires patience and tolerance from both you and your child.

Good experiences help your infant or toddler to become friendly, trusting and confident. Here's what you can do:

  • Be reliable. Love and care for your child. He is depending on you.
  • Make your home a safe place so that your child is free to explore.
  • Find a capable and loving baby sitter or care provider.
  • Adjust family routines to meet your child's needs for feeding, dressing, sleeping and playing.
  • Be affectionate. Hold, hug and cuddle your child.
  • Play with your child. Sing, read and talk to him.
  • Give him toys and play materials that are suitable for his age.
  • Plan activities for your toddler.
  • Don't leave him sitting for hours in a play pen or in front of a TV.
  • Provide firm, reasonable limits to keep your child safe and secure.
  • Provide time for play with other children.
  • Help your child to express his feelings.
  • Let your toddler practice skills like eating, managing alone in toileting and choosing appropriate clothes.

Building Healthy Self-Esteem in Your Preschooler

Preschoolers continue to become more independent, learning about themselves. Your preschooler will feel good about himself when he has some control over his life. He needs you to comfort him when he has bad feelings. And he needs you to help him feel good when he succeeds. Success helps build healthy self-esteem. Here's how you can help:

  • If your preschooler isn't in day care, get him involved in a play group.
  • Provide clothes that your preschooler can put on himself. Put up low hooks and low shelves so that he can put away clothes and toys himself.
  • Provide space for running and jumping and toys for learning.
  • Listen to your child. Care enough to stop what you are doing and give full attention to your child each day.
  • Be a good role model. You need to feel good about yourself and take care of yourself.
  • Use humor to show affection and to help a child through hurt feelings.
  • Allow your child to fail, to make mistakes, to change his mind and to do things well. Point out things that he can do well.
  • Give your child activities that allow him to release tension. Children feel stress, too. Give him something to hold, squeeze, stroke, rub, bend or hit.
  • Read to your child. Allow him to make up his own stories. Stories allow children to identify with failure, fear and surprise and to experience these with less anxiety.
  • Play games and sing songs that teach the names for body parts.

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