Self-concept or self-image is knowledge about self. Developing positive self-concept in a child can be compared to a potter’s craft. A potter uses clay; the soft pliable mud is transformed into a viable object with the skill of his hands and the mechanism of a wheel.
Self-concept is mainly a product of parents’ role in a child’s life. Here the potter are the parents, the clay is the child. The skill of hands signifies parents’ attitude and responses towards a child. And the mechanism of the wheel refers to the surrounding, a child is raised in – all these factors contribute towards developing self-concept in a child.
Alike a potter, who kneads the clay to work on its consistency; a mother influences her fetus’s well-being by taking care of her physical, mental and emotional health during pregnancy.
It requires the tactful knack of the potter’s hands to gradually shape up the pliable clay into a worthwhile object. To build positive self-concept in a child – a thoughtful approach should be adopted towards childcare:-
- At birth, taking care of your baby’s needs is of prime importance. The calmness and warmth of the mother’s body while breast feeding…the gentleness of her hands while changing the clothing advances for a secure emotional bond between the baby and the mother.
Talk to your little one in a soft and a bubbly tone. Sing songs in a soothing pitch or play soft music. Hang colourful toys on top of the cradle. Pay attention to their cries and respond by talking and caring for their wants.
At about two months, your baby will respond by smiling so smile back at them – this reflective positive response will stimulate their sense of self-worth.
- Your baby will slowly progress to crawl, to sit and to walk and will simultaneously explore their immediate environment by touch and taste. Contribute in their expedition by offering them colourful and movable toys to manipulate. Carry your little-one around and talk about the different objects in the house. Initiate taking along your baby for social events or family get-together and visit a nearby park as often as possible, this will increase your child’s awareness on the immediate surroundings.
Your child begins to understand verbal communication so avoid using harsh language or criticism because usage of offensive language influences the feeling of shame. Their curiosity and mobility will help them to imitate your words and actions. They will shut doors or open them, open or close lids of containers and will also pull down things which are within their reach. Big plastic blocks to build towers, being in small water pool with floating toys, big light-weight plastic balls to throw and pick are plays that your child will thoroughly enjoy.
- As two year old, your child’s exploration will grow with some use of language to their aid. Providing a safe environment for their adventurous pursuits is a must. They verbally express their preferences towards food, play and people. As parent we should portray a flexible attitude towards their demands. If a child insists on eating chocolates during lunch time, gently reason them by maintaining that they should eat the lunch first to eat the chocolate. Children of this age will express curiosity to handle some of the household products because of its colourful packaging; give box wrappers of these products and keep the product out of their reach.
Just when your child begins his journey as a two year old, gradual process of toilet training should begin. This advances his sense of autonomy with a forward leap towards forming a positive self-concept.
- Three to four years of age, is a period for rapid development in gross motor and language skills. An environment to explore their physical capability should be provided e.g. climbing the jungle gym, cycling etc. They should also play with children of the same age group. As their language skills soars up high, your child should be encouraged to express their interpretations regarding the day to day happenings in school and at home. Stories should be narrated; especially stories related with moral values and socially accepted behaviours.
This age marks the onset of fine motor skills. Some activities to develop fine motor muscles are threading beads, colouring and paper crumbling.
Permit your child to do small tasks related to self-care, for instance… selecting clothes for oneself, clothing oneself, taking care of toys and books. They should also be given easy household tasks to carry out; this initiates the spirit of usefulness.
At this age, self-concept slowly shapes to take a concrete form. The mechanism of the wheel i.e. the outside influence also begins to set in, the performance at school marks this – they might express it by saying, ‘Teacher gave me two stars … for writing neatly’ or ‘Teacher scolded me… for not writing’ or may complain to you that one of his classmates pinched him. As parents, we should motivate our kids with praise and by hugs.
- At the age of 5 to 6 years, children become effective communicators and will express their feelings and thoughts without any inhibition. Encourage your child by asking their opinions on matters concerning them, if the child answers in affirmative or not, tie-in the question by asking the reason for the same. This enables a child to realise that his views are important and also encourages them to voice-out inner conflicts.
They will participate in group games wherein they will learn to wait for their turn, cooperate in play and obey the rules of a game. It is during group games, children begin to recognise their acceptance among friends. Some children find it difficult to adjust in group games and this defiance may reflect when all of a sudden they become attention-seekers. Help your child by playing indoor board game e.g. Snakes and Ladders, Ludo etc. which will help them understand that while playing games with friends, they have to follow a set of rules in order to enjoy a game.
Children’s cognitive ability will mark a big boost. To encourage, parents can provide age-appropriate books to read and to observe. They will also be well-aware of their emotional needs and will also be sensitive towards the needs of others. They will recognize that they are a part of a society and will label themselves and others as ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ in terms of moral conduct.
Early years of life are the formative years in development of self-concept. While employing these ideas try not to compare children, to show dominance or to curb free thinking.
When the clay is moulded into a pot – using a stiff wire the potter pulls it separate from the wheel and later bakes it, for it become a worthwhile object. Similarly, children who are moulded to have a positive self-concept develop in society as individuals portraying a strong sense of self- respect and they instil the same sense in others.