What does it mean to be “Me”?
From The Happy Child set of talks and materials
When your child was born, they had no understanding of themselves as a separate person. They were not yet able to differentiate themselves as somebody separate from the others around them. Developing an individual sense of being someone different is something that happens over time; as we develop the mental, emotional, and behavioural functions necessary to see ourselves as a separate person. And how well this is happening is determining whether your child is developing a healthy sense of themselves.
As we develop a sense of being a separate person, an awareness of who we are develops too
As children learn to effectively manage their bodies, responding to basic needs and drives, they establish a growing confidence in themselves as a person. By allowing our children opportunities to do things for themselves; feeling what their bodies can do, managing their environment, and selecting their own goals; they develop this sense of personal power, of self-esteem and resilience.
Opportunities to engage with other children and adults within wide ranging social and environmental situations allows these skills to flourish. But it also places them in a position of comparison.
Asking themselves; “What can I do compared to those around me?”, and “What do other people think of me?”
When children are given opportunities to see what they are capable of, they experience what it means to try. They then learn to persevere through challenge and to shine. And they develop a good sense of who they are. But more importantly, they are developing a belief in themselves and who they might become. They are more likely to try new things and they tend to bounce back quickly after difficult experiences.
Children who have experienced limited opportunities, or frequently have adults’ step in don’t feel secure within their own abilities. Because of this, they may feel unsafe within unfamiliar situations, and often shy away from new experiences. We must then support our children as they establish a sense of competence, confidence and worthiness. But what do these terms really mean?
Competence – The ability to do something successfully
To see something through to a successful conclusion – no matter how small – requires the ability to think of the end goal. And to understand the emotions they may feel along the way. They also need verbal skills to express their thoughts, wants and needs and lots of experiences to try.
Confidence – Having the belief that you can do something successfully
This is fuelled by every success they have experienced and can be just as easily dented when things go wrong. So, allow your child’s confidence to build as you make memories of doing things with ease. And allow them to try things again so they see positive outcomes from their additional effort. But also take care to resist the negative effects that can come from setbacks or difficulties.
Worthiness – Feeling good enough
Worthiness is rooted in our values; our beliefs about what is good, what is right and what is important, and how we ourselves measure up. And they are continuously being communicated to your child; when you mean to and when you don’t.
So be aware of the messages you are sending, and mindful of the impact of your words and actions. As you support your child to be competent, confident and full of self- worth; as you support your child in developing a healthy sense of themselves.
Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods. Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child. www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL