Developing a positive, healthy self-concept

Here is another nice piece from the Growing Child newsletter distributed by the Lifestart Foundation. 

Developing a positive, healthy self-concept


Self-concept is the way we think about ourselves and the feelings we have about ourselves. These thoughts can be positive or they can be negative. As adults we can control and influence our feelings about ourselves. We can accept or reject others’ opinions. We can monitor the events in our lives that cause us to feel one way or the other about ourselves.

A young child’s self-concept, though, is determined mostly by the “messages” she receives from others, particularly her mother and father. Sometimes the message the child receives is not what parents really intend. For example, a parent may insist on doing everything for the child, even
the most simple things the child could do for herself.

The parent may think he/she is sending the message: “I’m doing all these things for you because I love you.” But perhaps the unconscious, non-verbal message the child may be getting is: “Always rely on Mom and Dad to do everything for you because you don’t know how to do things and
you’re helpless.”

To understand a child’s self-concept you have to try to see the world from her perspective. A one-year-old is very occupied with developing competence—that is, learning to do things herself.
It is this continued striving for competence that pushes her to try new challenges—such as learning to feed herself with a spoon. These challenges—and successes—lead her from one stage of
development to the next. The day a child grabs the spoon and tries to feed herself is a day to

Her best efforts to balance food on the spoon are certainly not the neatest or most efficient way to get the food to her mouth. But to the child, the feeling of accomplishment and self-worth are more important than neatness and efficiency.

So, watch for the things a child can do for herself and encourage her to try to do them—even though she can’t do them perfectly. The more she learns to do for herself, the more positive her self-concept will be.

You may also like

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

Leave a comment