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What Are the Signs of Low Self-Esteem in Children?

By Tiffany Manley
Updated May 17, 2024
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Low self-esteem in children can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Each child is different, and might not have the same signs as other children. An inability to cope with a range of emotions, shyness, and over-dependence on others are a few of the signs to watch for. In addition, children with low self-esteem might not know how to handle mistakes, might make negative statements about themselves, or avoid trying new things.

Experiencing a variety of emotions is a normal part of life for most individuals. Children who have low self-esteem might not have the ability to handle these feelings in appropriate ways. The child may experience extreme anxiety in emotional situations.

While shyness is not necessarily a direct indicator of low self-esteem in children, when coupled with other factors it can be a consideration. Shyness can be crippling for a child, especially when he or she is faced with new surroundings, individuals, or circumstances. Timid or more reserved behavior isn't necessarily a warning sign, but caregivers should monitor behaviors such as these to ensure they do not become a negative force in a child’s life.

An over-dependence on other individuals is another possible indicator of low self-esteem in children. At times, a child suffering from low self-esteem might feel he or she is unable to do things alone, instead relying on others more heavily than necessary. Helping children see that they are capable of handling some tasks on their own can often help increase self-esteem.

The inability to handle mistakes properly might point to low self-esteem in children as well. This might also involve unusual perfectionism and negative self-talk. Together, these can form a dangerous repetitive cycle that might be difficult for a child to emerge from.

Low self-esteem in children can manifest itself in the inability to try new things. Children may feel they are incapable of learning a new task or performing something properly. Comfort may often be derived from only surrounding themselves with people, situations, and things that they are comfortable with.

Displaying any one of the characteristics mentioned above does not necessarily mean a child has low self-esteem. A combination of factors and consideration of each individual child can usually help determine this. Caregivers and other important people in a child’s life can usually help him or her work through this. A child’s natural tendencies and personality should also be considered, as some children are naturally more reserved than others.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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