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Low self esteem in a 5yo

(13 Posts)
RoastieToastieReastie Wed 21-Sep-16 21:18:32

DD has said a number of times in the past month that she doesn't like herself or doesn't like anything about herself. She looks so genuinely upset and miserable about it.

First time it happened she was looking in the mirror and since it's happened at various times and places. She sort of mumbles it and isn't saying it for effect. She seems bothered about it when she mentions it but seems fine other times (she's said it maybe 4 times in the past month). When we chat about it she tells me she wants red lips. This seems to be something that is very important to her. I have no idea where it comes from. It's the only thing she's said that she would change.

I've chatted to her about being a good person inside and all the lovely things she does and is and how someone can have the reddest lips but they may be selfish and rude etc and she seems to take this in board but it hasn't stopped her feeling very unconfident and saying she doesn't like herself.

It's concerning me she's saying this from such a young age. I am very unconfident and have had such self confidence issues.mive always been very careful never to mention to her anything negative I feel about myself etc to her.

I don't really know what I can do to improve her self confidence so if anyone could give me any ideas or pointers or tell me if this is just normal 5 year old behaviour etc I'd be really grateful.

strawberrybubblegum Fri 23-Sep-16 05:38:50

I wish we could bottle up how we see them and what we feel for them, and put it directly into their hearts, so that they could know without a doubt how wonderful they are flowers

Here are some thoughts:

1. I've read that confidence comes from mastering skills. Can you find some things for her to learn or do, which build on her existing strengths (eg a new physical activity if she's very physical, or a craft activity if she has good fine motor skills, or a tricky puzzle if she's good at those). Help her to succeed (!) but as much as possible let it all come from her. Then tell her you're proud of her for learning/managing that.

2. For praise to be effective it needs to be a specific observation, and also not too over the top or frequent (they need to believe you mean it). It should also where possible be about the process (which they can control) rather than the end result. An observation is also good (so that they can see you're really noticing their work).

Eg instead of:
'Wow! That is an amazing picture!'
Say something like:
'I really like how carefully you've stuck the mosaic pieces on. I bet it was tricky to get them all in the right places!'
or (observation):
'there are so many colours in your picture <list them>.'

3 Show it to someone else in front of her: praising them to someone else is really powerful. Again keep it low key eg 'look, DD made this picture today. She did it herself'. Make sure that person knows about effective praise before you do that.

4. I've read that modelling self-praise is really healthy (same guidelines as above about being specific and focus on process) although it doesn't feel very natural!
Eg saying out loud to her 'I'm proud of myself for climbing up here with you. We're really high!' or 'I'm pleased we managed to get to the shop after school, that way we have all the food we need'

5. I'm sure you never compare her to anyone, but I think we even need to explicitly coach them not to worry about comparisons.

Eg if she compares herself to someone, confidently say 'I don't care about whether X can ride her scooter. I care about you. And I'm really proud that after you fell off, you got back on and kept trying'. (obviously if X is there at the time you'd replace 'I don't care about...' with 'you both have strengths...' grin)

Or if she says that someone said something unkind (my DD gets really bothered by that) ask her what she thinks, listen to her answer (hopefully it will be positive!) and reinforce it.

If you have difficulty with confidence yourself, this stuff might not come very naturally at first, but it honestly soon will.

Hope she feels better soon.

Sleeperandthespindle Fri 23-Sep-16 05:48:22

Great advice from bubblegum.

My now 7 year old was, and is, similar. I haven't heard her make any negative comments about her appearance yet. We are relentlessly positive about her red hair and so far so is the general public!

I agree wholeheartedly about mastering skills. At 5, DD found groups a struggle so she did climbing as a sport and had 1:1 swimming lessons. Now she is learning tennis and piano and having group swimming. She is great at art. Despite all of these skills she remains highly sensitive and reacts to the slightest setback. I think it's a long term process, although it can be hard to see it like that sometimes.

DD has the added difficulty of dyslexia so will frequently come up against challenges. I think she holds it together well at school so we often get the fall out which looks like poor self-esteem but is really just letting go of the strain I think.

RoastieToastieReastie Fri 23-Sep-16 06:51:54

This is wonderful advice, thank you.

Bubblegum I do number 3 and to an extent number 4 already. Number two is really useful as I tend to be generically encouraging rather than pick out specifics. I will think about her building a talent. She is, I think, good at reading for her age but doesn't always want to read so I'm not sure if it's something she will want to improve iykwim. She read at home over a number of days what I felt was a very tricky book and did really well and was so proud about it I wrote a note in Dds contact book and enclosed the book to show the teacher but it's just been ignored all week. DD was proud about it and we were hoping she might get a house point for it but nothing yet. She does piano lessons but getting her to practice is difficult! Hmm, I will think about that. Does playing with dolls count?!

Footle Fri 23-Sep-16 07:09:52

Yes, playing with dolls does count ! 'That was a nice cuddle, you've made her feel much happier now' etc.

strawberrybubblegum Fri 23-Sep-16 09:33:41

What a shame the teacher didn't acknowledge her reading - that would have given her a boost. I tend to use DD's father and grandparents for passing on compliments.

Playing with dolls is definitely something you could use. Perhaps you could have an activity where she creates a room for them out of a cardboard box, bits and pieces from around the house and bits of fabric (outgrown clothes?). Then everyone could admire the detail she has put into it, and that she is giving her dolls a nice home.

The achievements don't need to be something where she's objectively amazing - the key is for her to get an 'I did it!' moment.

In fact, since it is the process (her effort, determination, care etc) you want to focus on rather than the end result, things she is weak at would actually the best possible thing to use - but it's a rare child who pushes themselves in something they find hard (especially if their esteem has taken a hit) which is why strengths are a good starting point instead, since they are more likely to persist with something which builds an existing strength.

strawberrybubblegum Fri 23-Sep-16 09:34:26

And what footle said - absolutely!

Footle Fri 23-Sep-16 10:11:29

strawberry, you just gave my self-esteem a boost !

RoastieToastieReastie Fri 23-Sep-16 19:08:46

Thank you. DD has been playing with her dolls this evening (they are big ones, like baby annabel size so couldn't really make a room for them) and I've been joining in with her more than I usually would and making lots of positives about what she's doing. I've also made flash cards for piano notes to help her learn those in the hope this gives her more confidence to play the piano (she becomes daunted that she can't really read the music and wants to give up) which we'll be doing with her over the coming weeks until she knows them really well.

Gymnopedies Fri 23-Sep-16 22:03:19

I was going to ask if you had self confidence issues yourself but you already replied in your OP.
Have you tried saying positive things/praising yourself in front of your DD? Mum is looking very good today, is strong, is smart, can di such and such etc... It worked for me with DS. He really gets confidence and positivity by me projecting a good image of myself. Praising him didn't seem to work (I have read somewhere than excess praise is just interpreted as love from the parent and this seemed to be the case with DS).

RoastieToastieReastie Sat 24-Sep-16 06:59:39

Gym I'm not sure how much I self praise out loud to DD but I'm going to try. Thank you.

marthastew Sat 24-Sep-16 07:13:55

If she is five she will be going through a huge transition in that she will have just gone into reception or made the jump to year 1.

Both situations are big deal for them that can be difficult to articulate. Suddenly being with a large group of unfamiliar children some of which are better at things than you.

Lots of hugs and reminders about how much you love them can help them to feel more settled in addition to the other excellent advice here.

RoastieToastieReastie Sat 24-Sep-16 19:14:55

Thanks Marta. She has stared year one and it is a change for her (although this started before the beginning of term)

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