How is a good self-image created?

The image that a child ultimately has about himself is formed mainly by the parents and other people close to the child. Whether the image is positive or negative has to do with what children hear from their parents.

Does what you say have an impact?

The moment your child is in your arms and you start talking to him or her, you say things to your child. For example, you think it’s so clever that it can already hold its little elephant. You support that by saying, for example: ‘Well done, great’. Children absorb the words, but also your non-verbal positive attitude, the timbre of your voice and also sense whether you really mean it.
They discover what they can do and their strengths. In this way they form an internal image of themselves.

Not just the parents

Not only the parents determine the development of self-image, but also the teacher at the daycare center, the teacher at school and grandparents. Especially those who are closely involved with the child. After all, they constantly say things to and about the child.


Of course, a child also discovers for himself what he is good at and what he is not. ,I’m good at math, but I’m not creative,, may be an observation from a child. Or: ‘I am good at making friends, but bad at losing’.

Are we aware of what we say?

If only it were true that we realize that what we say has such a major influence on a child’s self-perception. We would then swallow a lot of words and sentences! First of all, we often talk in front of children. Sometimes only with small children, but also very regularly in the presence of teenagers, for example. To start with the last one: ‘He has such a terrible working attitude, so he will probably have to wait this year.’ With a young child: ‘She lets everyone walk all over her, I wouldn’t be surprised if she is bullied.’ But also: ‘he is so shy, or: he ruins the atmosphere in the house, or: he doesn’t listen at all’.

Self-image and self-confidence

The image you have of yourself shapes your self-confidence. Learning to appreciate and trust yourself can only happen if you have positive thoughts about yourself. If your thoughts about yourself are fed by what you hear, it colors your opinion about yourself. The effect is thoughts like: ‘I’m stupid, silly, shy, incompetent, etc. The more times you’ve heard those things, the harder they are to correct.

Weigh your words

To give your child a positive self-image, you must be aware that you mention positive things to your child. Identify what a child is good at and express words of appreciation about processes that your child goes through well. ‘I respect your perseverance’ or: ‘You see through things quickly, I think that is very clever’ or ‘You are so helpful’. It is clear that a child discovers where his talents lie. If this happens enough, your child will form a positive image of himself. Your child actually discovers two things: I can do something and I am someone. That forms the basis of his or her existence.
And of course you can occasionally point out where a child still has something to learn. There is nothing wrong with that. But only once you have given him ground under his feet.

Give your fellow educators insight

Talk to the grandparents, teachers and leaders in childcare about how you would like the children not to be talked about in front of them. An exception is when something positive is said that is actually good. If the teacher says in front of a child: ‘He has enormous commitment’, you can wholeheartedly applaud that. Or grandma says: ‘Sterre helped me so much this afternoon’. Many people do not know that negative words can penetrate so deeply and leave a mark. We can hold each other accountable for this. Because we want our children to believe in themselves and their own abilities. Because then they become adults who are open to the world. Becoming people who trust themselves. And those who trust themselves can trust others.

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