• Early Years Toolkit

Can early years kids really suffer from low self-esteem?

Yes. Absolutely they can, and at as young as 5 years of age, self-esteem is even established strongly enough to be measured. A good level of self-esteem is very important for a child as it plays a significant role in their motivation and success. It allows them to achieve their goals by navigating their time at school with a good level of assertiveness and positivity.

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Self Esteem is a fundamental need of being human. 

Children in the early years tend to have a high self-esteem, which is down to them not yet having developed the ability to evaluate themselves or others objectively. They love a captive audience and relish the praise they get from adults. This is when you hear things like "Look how high I can jump!" And we see the huge smile on their faces when we say, "Oh my gosh, you nearly touched the sky", once they've safely landed back on earth from their time spent a few centimetres off the ground.

You may also notice, however, that they can be very disappointed, sad even, when they can't complete a task they out to achieve. As children don't tend to skilfully talk about their feelings at this age, it's important we look out for clues in how they act. Examples of these are, crying or getting upset when they struggle; they may steer clear of a challenge; and they may seem indifferent, or reject praise, of their work.

You are likely to see these in all early years kids at some point, but it starts to become a concern as their regularity increase.

Children with low self-esteem may:

  • Be unable to express their own needs.

  • Think of the times they fail rather than when they succeed.

  • Have trouble receiving positive feedback.

  • Be self-critical and hard on themselves.