How can parents spot low self-esteem in their children?

Have you noticed a change in your child’s mood or a decrease in their motivation? It’s possible that a lack of confidence can cause or worsen these issues. Here are some signs of low self-esteem to look out for in children:

Difficulty taking criticism. Low self-esteem levels can be associated with sensitivity to criticism. This also includes a student’s resilience, or their ability to “bounce back” after a challenging situation. It’s not unusual to feel “down in the dumps” after a bad test score – after all, nobody likes to fail. However, if you notice your child becoming severely critical of themselves after a disappointing result, there may be deeper issues at play. With low self-esteem, students aren’t able to develop a growth mindset – the inner confidence that they can overcome challenges through applying themselves.

Decreased motivation. If you notice your child lacks motivation in school, low self-esteem may be a factor. This is especially true if grades are beginning to slip – academic success is made up of many components, and self-esteem (or academic confidence) is just one of them. When students feel like they aren’t able to keep up with academic requirements, they can begin to lose their confidence to succeed in school altogether. This can in turn create a “snowball” effect where the student’s decreased interest and effort towards school further affects their grades. When students lack motivation, it often means they are having trouble connecting to the material. As a result, they aren’t able to find meaning in what they are learning. In many cases, a private tutor can serve as an academic coach – able to design customized lesson plans and instructional approaches that cater to the individual student’s interests and needs. To learn more about what makes private tutoring different, click here.

Unwillingness to try new things. If a student is unwilling to try new things, it may mean that they feel uncomfortable stepping outside of their comfort zone. Trying new approaches and enjoying new things is a wonderful part of life, and kids with low self-esteem may unknowingly miss out on rewarding experiences due to their unwillingness to experiment. Of course, if a child prefers familiarities, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have low self-esteem. As we’ve discussed in our blog about personality types, some people have a more passive approach towards life and just aren’t as eager to jump into new things right away. However, if you notice your child’s selectivity is beginning to impact possible growth (i.e. hesitating to learn a musical instrument due to a fear of “not being good enough”) – low self-esteem may be a factor and should be addressed.

Advice for Parents
It’s important to remember that, when it comes to mental health, not everything can be determined by clear cut indicators. For instance – some students may have a lack of energy that comes from low self-esteem. However, a lack of energy can also come from poor diet or irregular sleeping patterns. In other words, we shouldn’t be quick to assume that self-esteem problems are the sole cause of a particular problem. Some students have healthy self-esteem but may just be more reserved – being shy doesn’t necessarily mean you lack confidence. In general, it’s best to consider self-esteem as one part of a person’s overall mental health.

If you notice any serious emotional changes or increasingly withdrawn behavior, there may be other issues as play and you should contact your child’s doctor and/or teacher immediately.