Emotional Development and the Self Esteem in Children
By Debbie Cluff
Emotional and Social Development
Many theorists have suggested the emotional development of a child, or the core of one's self esteem needs to be understood and fostered at home and in the classroom. Teachers and parents should focus on children's emotional development or the "feelings that generally have both physiological and cognitive elements which influence behavior (Feldman, 2000, p. 329), at a young age. These feelings need to be positively reinforced to develop a high self-esteem through out the child's life. Most theorists agree that there is a link between a child's development and their respective emotional levels. The views of the theorists also clarify the most influential stages in a child's life when emotional development is necessary and how this development reinforces a child's self esteem. A child's emotional development needs to be built at home and school in order to develop a high self-image.
By the time a child is three years old, he or she is an emotionally complex person who has experienced a wide range of emotions. As parents, teachers, and caregivers we need to help promote our children's emotional development so that they will be able to develop healthy relationships with their peers and learn how to manage their emotions effectively. This will help them get the most benefit out of their learning and eventually adulthood development. A child's emotional development begins with the relationship with their caregiver. The type of responses that a child receives from their first caregivers (i.e. parents, daycare providers) will determine how that child will learn to deal with their emotions later on in their live (Ashiabi, 2000). A child who has a secure relationship with their caregiver will initiate positive interactions and respond positively to initiations with others (Ashiabi, 2000). Conversely, a child who has an insecure relationship with his or her caregiver will show more negative emotions while interacting with others (Ashiabi, 2000).
Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, "Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice (Quote, 2004). Having a good self worth or attitude about oneself can define self-esteem. Children with a "healthy self-esteem feel, "that the important adults in their lives accept them, care about them, and would go out of their way to ensure that they are safe and well (KidSource, 2004). In younger children, self-esteem is not measured by their self worth, but by how well the loved ones in their lives respect and respond to their particular needs. For example, children with a lack of role models or a lack of parental support tend to have a lower self-esteem because they feel that these adults do not accept or care about them. This is the main factor which children base their level of self-esteem on through out their childhood and then on into adulthood. An example of this can be seen in early childhood development of infants who respond and attach themselves to the adults who love and are responsible for them. In the magazine American Baby it states, "What's usually the fastest way to soothe a crying baby? Snuggle together while gently stroking him. Your touch has an amazing power to communicate love (Wu, 2004). What this is pointing out is that the infant is responding to the trusted adult's touch basing its emotional development on this form of communication and overall establishing the child's future trust and self-esteem.
One big question about self-esteem is, "The more you praise your child, and the more self esteem your child will have. This is correct, isn't it? (Cyperparent, 2004). The answer to this question is not as simple it seems. It has been said that if you continuously praise a child, it may make the child question the sincerity of that adult, causing them to soon dismiss these praises as "fake and eventually hindering their self esteem. Even young children can see through excessive praise and flattery (KidSource, 2004). This is very important in today's classroom. Research suggests that we should praise, but also challenge and encourage the student to take risks. Praising your children and your students should be only one aspect of raising self-esteem. The main aspect of this development should focus on how, "Helping children develop self-esteem involves listening, accepting, and praising. Self-esteem comes from acceptance. Provide positive self-esteem. Help your children grow self-esteem (KidSource, 2004). A child's self-esteem is not something imprinted in their DNA when born, self esteem is established and planted by parents and teachers through a lot of time, dedication, and positive reinforcement. Remember that a child, also, does not and really cannot develop self-esteem over night. Self-Esteem is something that is trail and error for each child and with the positive help and influence of parents or teachers, a proper and high self esteem can be established, building upon each event through out their life, representing their emotional development.
It has been established for a long time that emotion does play a role in learning (Gewertz, 2003). Recent research has also shown that a deliberate approach to teaching social and emotional skills in the classroom increases test scores and grades, increases students enthusiasm and motivation to learn and reduces behavior problems. Children who are distracted by emotional issues do not learn effectively (Gewertz, 2003). By focusing on developing emotional and social skills, teachers and parents can help students to maximize their learning potential.
There are many ways a teacher can establish a child's emotional development. As we have stated previously, children build their self-esteem and emotional development based of the adults who they are close to and whom they spend a lot of time with. Teachers need to encourage children by building upon their self-esteem in their lesson plans so that their students will feel comfortable and confident with themselves. A teacher can make their students feel more confident by giving each child a specific responsibility. This is not only exciting for the child, but it also provides an opportunity for the student to gain some ownership of the classroom. A teacher can also show the students to how to learn from past failed attempts (Research and Children, 2004). In order to make this work, a teacher needs to let go of their instinct to overprotect the students and allow them to be creative and encourage any questioning. Building or growing a child's emotional development is different than teaching it. Teachers also have to keep in mind that they might be the sole provider for this form of development if the child is not receiving it at home. Thoroughly planning lessons around positive thinking will help to reinforce this theory.
There are many lesson plans teachers have access to via the internet. Most of these can easily be adapted to fit a teacher's specific situation. The K-5 lessons range from a "Who am I Collage, by Linda Bauck, which teaching the child who they are, to a "self esteem/class pride chain, by Kimberlee Woodward, which teaches them teamwork and self worth. The collage allows the students to create and present a piece of work about them. This allows the students not only to talk about their interests and characteristics, but also to work on presentation skills with peers. The chain lesson plan allows the student to list five talents on separate strips of construction paper. Then with the teachers help they will be linked to form a chain. The students each present their talents to the class, then link the entire chain together. This serves as a reference point and a reminder throughout the year. A student can always look up and see that he does possess talents, and so do his peers. Lesson plans building child development can be found on the internet at sites such as www.eduref.org/, which these lesson plans were located at. Another route the teacher can look into is character education which is a theory based on teaching children character. Really the focus of the teacher should be to learn about emotional development then implement it into the classroom.
There are outlining stages for emotional development and children. Parents and by teachers need to understand these stages so that they can aid in building their children's emotional development and positively mold children's self esteem. Emotional Development is important to understand because it can really help the child all the way into adulthood. Amos Alcott once said, "The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence (Quote, 2004). Teachers and parents are responsible for the emotional development of the children and the influence they share with these children can affect the children's lives forever.
About The Author
Debbie Cluff is the founder and owner of Links for Learning, www.links-for-learning.com. Links for Learning is the online tutoring and instant homework help site for students in Reading, Writing, and Math. Debbie is the mother of 2, with one on the way, and has been married for 5 years. She has her BA in Liberal Studies, her Master's in Education, and is currently in the 1st grade classroom.