How Children Develop Their Self-Image

An excerpt from the eBook of To Mind and Mend by Françoise Béguin, Selina Chan, and Dr. André Stang

The term self-concept is a general term used to refer to how one regards, perceives or evaluates himself. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself (McLeod, 2008).

Self-concept is important for both social psychology and humanism. Lewis (1990) suggests that the development of a self-concept has two aspects. First is the awareness of the constancy of the self and that it is separate and distinct from others. A person knows that he or she exists as a separate entity and that he or she continues to exist over time and space. The second is the knowledge of existence as a separate being and that he or she is also an object in the world with characteristics that can be experienced (Lewis, 1990).

Self-Concept in Early Childhood

The sense of self in children is created within loving relationships to which they have been exposed to since birth. Toddlers start becoming self-conscious at the onset of the second year. They are especially sensitive during this period and can feel shamed by harsh criticism. Two-year-old toddlers are also starting to express themselves with their emerging language skills. They have strong emotions and feel the need to assert their selves and to protest limits despite their fragile sense of self. The role of the parent or caregiver is to remain calm and to help them adapt to the demands of daily life. A good partner-ship with the toddler makes the limits reassuring and does not dampen the child’s sense of self.

Crawling Toddler

Self-Image Among 3 to 4 Years of Age

Toddler on his Tricycle

Children on their third and fourth years feel independent and attempt exercising autonomy. Preschoolers see themselves as separate, unique individuals and define themselves in concrete terms. They describe themselves according to their physical attributes, names, ages, gen- ders, social affiliations, possessions, and abilities. A young child's self-image tends to be descriptive, rather than judgmental. How preschoolers feel about the characteristics they use to describe themselves relate to their selfesteem The third and fourth years are critical times for successful experienc- es, as children during this stage grow so fast and develop in every way as they learn new skills and sharpen old ones.

Kindergarten Years

One of the greatest challenges new kindergarten students face is the development of a strong and affirmative sense of self in a big school setting. He or she may find it difficult to separate from his or her parents on the first day. The child may watch rather than participate in the activities or may demand attention. He or she might be wondering how to fit in, what his or her role is in the big group, and if his or her needs will be met (Church, 2016). Understanding that a five or six-year-old child transitions out of the egocentric “me” stage to an understanding of himself within a bigger group is important in helping the baby develop a good sense of self. The development of the ability to communicate feelings and needs is an important part of self-concept. Adults may facilitate this develop- ment by encouraging children to talk about their feelings and problems both in small and large groups.

Reading with Magnifying Glass

Self-Esteem in School-aged Children

School Children

In children, self-esteem is shaped by what they think and feel about themselves. Their self-esteem is highest when they see themselves as approximating their ideal self, the person they would like to be. Children with high self-esteem have an easier time handling conflicts, resisting harmful pressures, and making friends The start of school is a critical point in a child’s development of self- esteem. Self-esteem among many children drops as they cope with adults and peers in a new situation with new and strange rules in big school. Physical appearance and characteristics and their ability to make friends with children of their age influence the level of their self-esteem. Parents can help their children develop an inner sense of self-control by giving them opportunities to make their own decisions.

Building Confidence in Teenager

Self-esteem among teenagers is fragile given the major changes they encounter and is often affected by the physical and hormonal changes they experience, especially during puberty. The physical and emotional changes experienced during this stage present new challenges to a growing child’s self-esteem. Regard and acceptance of peers become of utmost importance to their self-esteem. Because teens are very concerned about how their peers regard them, physical image is a major factor to the level of their self-esteem Friendships provide lots of opportunities for learning and development, including companionship, recreation, social skills, participating in group problem solving, and managing competition and conflict. These bonds allow for self-exploration, emotional growth, and moral and ethical development of young people.

Teens & Library