Physical Competence & Self-Esteem

Posted by Lisa Josephsen

What is Self-Esteem and Why is it Important?
There are many ways for a child to feel good about themselves. Feeling that their parents and siblings love and accept them, doing well in school, having strong friendships – all of these factors help promote a child’s self-esteem. But what is self-esteem? Self-esteem can be defined as a child’s sense of their worth. It is a child’s sense that they are accepted, loved, and valued, they can accomplish things and learn, and they can make friends. This sense of self-worth allows the child to go out into the world and learn, build positive relationships, and take risks in order to grow as a person.

How do Children Build Self-Esteem?
Most of us know that children build their sense of self-worth through interactions with their parents, peers, and teachers. But we must not forget that children also build self-esteem through their physical abilities. Many researchers have established the link between physical activity and self-esteem because developing athletic skills can promote feelings of self-worth, effectiveness, and competence. Having a positive sense of what some have called “physical self-worth” helps fuel the child’s larger sense of self. Positive experiences with physical activities and/or sports can play a huge role in how a child feels about themselves in general.

How Can Physical Activities Help Children Build Their Self-Esteem?
Overcoming challenges to one’s body, or building athletic skills in general, can lead to a strong sense of competence. Giving a child physically appropriate athletic activities can produce feelings of accomplishment that will in turn fuel their self-esteem. Developing better body awareness, strengthening gross and fine motor skills, and simply doing things he or she used to struggle to accomplish all give a child a huge boost in how they feel about themselves. Having positive self-esteem can then impact the child in other areas of life, including school and social situations.

What Can We As Parents Do to Help?
Providing our children with physical outlets on an ongoing basis will give our children the environment they need in order to build this component of their self-esteem. Being good role models of physical activity and going on bike rides, hikes, and even long walks instead of sitting at home can also be quite beneficial for a child. School sports teams and afterschool programs are abundant. It is important to know your child, though, because some children thrive in a larger group setting while others are less comfortable. For children who cannot handle team sports or larger group activities for various developmental or psychological reasons, private coaching can be an excellent option. Whichever path you choose, you will be helping your child develop a positive sense of self that they will use every day.

Marla Baum, Psy.D.