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
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.