Our Sense of Self is Developed at a Very Early Age

In the very first GGK module…Attachment, Bonding and Caring for Your New Family, we begin to explore attachment and bonding with families and introduce them to the importance of these protective relationships with the Protective Shield Demonstration. This demonstration supports parental understanding of how parenting in a nurturing and sensitive manner will build an emotional shield for their child that will last a lifetime.

Juggling all the demands of adult responsibilities can leave parents feeling like there just isn’t enough time for their children. But simple, small acts that demonstrate kindness and protection to children can make a big difference. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015) The Protective Shield demonstration can show parents that by doing the kinds of things they are already doing in a nurturing manner, they are actually growing children who feel loved and valued, without adding a lot of extra time to their already busy schedules. It is the perfect introduction to the parenting work you will be doing with them using the GGK curriculum. Have you done this demonstration with all of your families? Have you tried the Protective Shield for Toddlers? Do you replay this as a booster/reminder for families?

Learning new parenting skill sets (or Daily Do’s) is hard work. As home visitors you have to remain empathic with parents on this matter. Finding ways to inspire them to practice the new skills on a regular basis is critical to their outcomes. With each of the Daily Do’s, your GGK manual provides pay-offs that will help to guide that effort. One of the pay-offs that is listed frequently is that children will have increased self-esteem.

Research shows that when children receive sensitive parenting, they “have the best chance of developing into children, teens, and adults who are happy, healthy, and possess individual-level protective factors such as relational, self-regulation, and problem-solving skills.” (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015) We also know that, in general, these kinds of characteristics are the result of secure attachment relationships at a very young age. (Bowby, 1969). Our self-views are tied up with these early relationships from infancy which become the basis for self-esteem throughout our lives.

Under the best conditions, high self-esteem develops based on positive interactions with caregivers. Babies can then go on to explore the world while knowing that someone is there for protection if needed. This secure attachment provides children with the ability to regulate their feelings and their self-esteem internally. (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2004)

Some recent findings in a new study by researchers at the University of Washington (Cvencek, Greenwald, & Meltzoff, 2016) indicate that children have a sense of self-esteem much like that of an adult by age 5. The importance of this is that self-esteem remains pretty stable across our lifetime and this study is telling us that this personality trait is “already in place before children begin kindergarten.” (McElroy, 2015)

One of the researchers, Andrew Meltzoff, points out that the research indicates that self-esteem is a “social mindset children bring to school with them, not something they develop in school.” (McElroy, 2015) This leads to the essential question…what parts of the parent-child relationship promote and nurture this strong self-esteem?

Encouraging parents to do the Daily Do’s dozens of times daily seems to be part of this equation. Character Builders leads to trust and children feeling safe and secure. By E-Parenting parents are supporting strong self-regulation and self-esteem. By finding lots of opportunities for Brain Builders, parents are helping children to feel more capable. Through the use of the 4 Steps to Success learning will be fun and children will feel proud of their efforts. By supporting language development with Play by Play or Talk It Up children’s impulse control will be greater and they will have stronger communication skills gaining confidence in their relationships with others. Even the Body Builders Daily Do has a strong impact on self-esteem. Children who are physically healthy feel better about themselves and their abilities.

Knowing that children will take the feelings about themselves that they are developing during these foundational years with them wherever they go in life, it becomes evident that there is much work to be done and not much time to do it. The research tells us that this, like so many of our personality traits, is formed at an earlier age than we previously imagined. Good parenting is the best investment that can be made for the future of our children.

As always, feel free to email any topic suggestions or questions to danabroadway@greatkidsinc.net . Be sure to add Great Vine ideas to the subject line of the email.

Works Cited

Bowby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. Vol. 1: Attachment. London: Hogarth.

Cvencek, D., Greenwald, A. G., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2016). Implicit measures for preschool children confirm self-esteem’s role in maintaining a balanced identity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 50-57.

McElroy, M. (2015, November 2). Children’s self-esteem already established by age 5 new study finds. Retrieved from washington.edu: http://www.washington.edu/news/2015/11/02/childrens-self-esteem-already-established-by-age-5-new-study-finds/

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2004). Security-based self-representations in adulthood: Contents and processes. In W. S. Rholes, & J. A. Simpson, Adult attachment: Theory, research, and clinical implications (pp. 159-195). New York: Guilford Press.

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Making Meaningful Connections. Retrieved from childwelfare.gov: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/guide.pdf



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