Self-Esteem In Children: What Is Our Role?

Most parents would never intentionally hurt their children, but unfortunately some do.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | July 23, 2014

Discipline in a manner that teaches children instead of damaging their self-esteem.

Our self-esteem and what other people think of us are sometimes at the opposite ends of the scale. If I evaluate my worth, I take into account the volunteer work I do and how others value me as their friend, relative or acquaintance. Someone speaking negatively about me has no impact on what I think of myself. I am an adult. I can roll with the punches and I think I’m a pretty good person.

Children’s view parents as all-powerful beings while they are young so nurture that image while it lasts.

Children, on the other hand, rely heavily on the opinion of others to help form their view of themselves or their self-esteem. These ‘others’ include friends, relatives, acquaintances, teachers and other school staff and parents. Another child may speak negatively in a casual manner about them and they can pretty much let it roll off their back as long as it is not considered bullying. When a teacher speaks constructively to this child they may feel disappointment but they may strive to study harder to achieve their well-earned praise. They will generally feel good about themselves.

However, when a parent speaks negatively or harshly to the child their feelings are impacted even though they might not show it and self-esteem often takes a silent blow. The parent’s words will carry more weight than the teachers, relatives or friends combined. If there were a pie chart— parents would have the lion’s share.

Because our children view us as so important and with such authority, it is our responsibility to measure our words carefully before we speak. We often say what we think in the moment rather than what we truly mean. Parents should think of themselves as the PR person for their child’s inner self, being cautious with word and phrase choices, especially when upset or in a hurry.

Parents in a rush are more likely to have a temper outburst than parents who plan ahead and allow extra time.

The next time your child breaks a plate, loses your hammer, makes a bad choice or any number of infractions that kids commit— stop and think! Ask yourself, “What do I want my child to come away with after this experience?” The answer to that question will be your guide in choosing what to say or do.

When parents do slip up – and they will – apologies should be quick and sincere. Parents who apologize must try to avoid using hurtful words at all cost in the future. Parents who continue and think a string of apologies will smooth over hurt feelings they are wrong and run the risk of losing credibility with their child.

“Taste your words before you spit them out.” ~Author Unknown

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” ~Peggy O’ Mara

“A child with low self-esteem probably has a parent with low self-esteem.” ~Tinker

What do you think about children’s self-esteem and apologies?

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Kim Davies Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Daniel Rothamel Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Ed Yourdon Under Flicker/CC License.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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18 Responses to Self-Esteem In Children: What Is Our Role?

  1. Really great post. I enjoyed the included quotes, especially the one about inner voice.


  2. Children’s egos are so fragile. A mean parent can destroy a child. Jackie you do a wonderful job helping parents and children. Hugs, Barbara


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, Barbara, for your kind comment. The goal of Parents Anonymous is to prevent child abuse and verbal and emotional are among the longest lasting types of abuse. The sad thing, really, is that when parents say things without thinking that cause the deepest scars. Thank you again, Barbara. Hugs back.


      • My mother abused me. I won’t go into details but I fully understand the impact of your work. Hugs and light. Barbara


      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        Barbara, I am sorry you were abused, no child should be abused. I only talk about my abuse occasionally and try to focus instead on prevention. If my mother had been able to attend a Parents Anonymous group like I did, I wonder if our relationship could have been normal. Thank you for that. ❤


      • Well, you work with parents and I helped to start a DV shelter. I counseled while I was working as a psych nurse. And I began the legal unit. Perhaps it happened to us so others could be spared. I really support you and all the good you do with your group. I am 64. No one believed you when you tried to get help back then. The Silent Scream. Hugs and light my friend. Barbara


      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        Barbara, you certainly have been busy in your life and accomplished much. I am not surprised because when a person has been hurt as you have it creates a drive to overcome and do and be more. And you have. I can also see the beauty within you by your lovely photographs that shout beauty, peace, quiet and love. You are 64, I am 60 and we have much to to before we stop. Hugs back. Namaste. Jackie


  3. SomerEmpress says:

    “Taste your words before you spit them out.” Powerful!


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, I agree that it is powerful. It is my hope that parents will take time to think before they do unintended damage.


  4. DarcSunshine says:

    Reblogged this on Youth Of A Nation:Bent not Broke.


  5. Yes, those little adoring eyes look up to, and so much want to be, that person that they love. We are their caregiver, protector and teacher of life. And as a parent we silently teach them everything that we are. The good, the bad and the ugly.
    We need to break the cycle, and the only way to do that is when they are very young, at school. Can you imagine teaching them something, that is against what that person they love and look up to tells them, and the response they get when they get back home.
    Poor little, or older, soul won’t know where to turn. So where do you break the cycle. As an adult we are more open to learning, but, a lifetime of ‘being’ a certain way can be very confronting when your asked to change. Change can be very frightening, even for an adult.
    Don’t get me wrong, we do very much need to stop and consider our reactions to a child and the harm it can do. And there most definitely needs to be intervention groups to block those areas that cause serious harm to a child in any form.
    I’m more referring to a way of stopping it from reaching those points, some way of teaching to stop those lifelong coping strategies that we all put in place to respond to this world and all the fears that we wall up inside because of our upbringing.
    Yes we have a lot in place but they always seem to be after the fact instead of as a learning tool.
    Anyway, I’m just talking out loud because of what I see on a day to day basis as a healer. All, and I mean all, have those things within that on the outside seem to be the most horrible things, but on the inside I have seen the most beautiful emergence of a butterfly…because of what they have been through.
    A contradiction…no. Painful, yes. But it would be nice to see another form of intervention, between all (would be), parents to teach them the skills that they may have missed in this crazy ride through life. The life that they would save, the pain and even the money because now we would have a child more balanced in life and not wanting to ‘do drugs, alcohol or any one of another reactions’, because they do not feel that love from those that they love. All because ‘they’ were never shown how to love by those that they loved and looked up to. They were old school, never showed emotion because times were hard and it was ‘get up and get on with it’, which just showed them not to show emotion. And it is gradually getting worse as each generation becomes less feeling in the way that they unintentionally ‘teach’ their children because of how they were brought up.
    Sorry, almost a post. May it provide food for thought anyway. Namaste


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Great comment! You are so very right on all points. If you are a healer, and I’m sure you are, then you understand the weight of what my goal is for this blog – the PREVENTION of child abuse in all its many forms. Please, feel free to come and “post” common sense comments any time. Seriously, prevention, by whatever means, is exactly the point. Thank you. Namaste back. ❤


  6. Reblogged this on Listen Through My Heart and commented:
    Children are so precious. My heart breaks to see my own and so many others who have witnessed domestic violence, and continue to have to spend time with a parent who teaches that violence and threats of violence are the way to get needs met…


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      It doesn’t take much to set the stage for low self-esteem. Once headed down that path it is very difficult to turn it around. Thank you for sharing this.


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