What Are the Causes of Low Self Esteem in Children?

By Jayde M. Nichols
child image by Friday from Fotolia.com

Self-esteem is the opinion each person has of himself and his value as a person. Self-esteem is established over the course of a person's life, but during childhood a number of situations can negatively affect a child's self-esteem. Poor self-esteem in childhood carries over into the teenage years and adulthood, and can lead to poor choices such as drug use, abuse and bad relationships.

Abuse in the Home

The way a child is treated at home has a large impact on the development of his self-esteem. If a child is abused by his parents, either physically or emotionally, he will feel as though he is worthless and deserves to be treated poorly. Parents who physically abuse their children set them up for low self-esteem and increased chances of the child growing up and getting into relationships in which they are abused or abuse others. Parents who call their children names and yell at the all the time give their children the message that they are unimportant or unlovable.

Children who are neglected also struggle with their self-esteem. Parental neglect can lead kids to feel as though they are not important and are not worth their parents' time. They may feel as though they have nobody to trust and turn their negative feelings inward, blaming themselves for the way their parents act.

Poor School Experiences

A child's experience in school can also negatively affect her self-esteem. If a child is bullied by peers, she will learn that other people can be very hurtful, and she may feel as though it is her fault, especially if nobody stands up for her. Teachers who are cruel or call students names may also make children feel as though they are unimportant or that the names they are called are true.

Learning Difficulties

Learning disabilities can greatly contribute to a child's poor self-esteem. If a child's learning disabilities are not given attention or are ridiculed, he may begin to feel as though he is stupid and struggle to overcome his disability. As a result of a lack of achievement in school, the child may be looked down upon by peers, teachers and parents, further lowering the child's self-esteem.

High Parental Expectations

High expectations from parents can also play a role in a child developing low self-esteem. A child in this situation may feel as though she is never good enough for her parents and has to keep working to make herself live up to their standards. When the child fails to meet her parents' expectations, she will feel negatively about herself and learn to expect negative consequences from her parents. This is especially harmful in children who struggle with learning and don't receive the appropriate help and support.

Lack of Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities

Children need to succeed in hobbies and extracurricular activities to feel good about themselves. When kids are not given these opportunities to succeed in something that they enjoy, they are faced with feelings of failure and boredom. They may develop low self-esteem and poor self-image, leading them to turn to harmful behaviors to gain some control and focus in their lives. It has been shown that children have higher self-esteem and are less likely to turn to bad behavior when they have hobbies outside of school.

Overprotective Parents

Overprotective parents may unknowingly lead their child toward having poor self-esteem. This is due to the child not being able to experience life for himself, and having to always rely on his parents to do everything for him. While overprotective parents may mean well, their child may grow to feel like he is not able to care for himself and isn't worthwhile as an individual.