A developing inner self-image can be affected by the treatment children receive from others. If a child grows up in a family in which one or more members consistently relay negative messages, both verbal and non-verbal, the child may grow up accepting these views of himself/herself as his own.
Think of a time when someone has been critical. How did it make you feel? You may not have been thinking of yourself in a critical light until a perceived flaw was pointed out by another. Did you begin to wonder if there was truth in what was said? Did this affect your confidence or view of yourself? Imagine how these things can affect the developing mind and personality of a child. As adults, we can choose to ignore criticism or take it to heart, making any changes we feel are necessary if need be, but innocent children do not always have this ability.
Children, especially babies and toddlers, are also very perceptive to body language, voice inflection, and facial gestures. Even a hurried, rushed pace can convey anxiety or impatience to a child. This is fine for a child to experience on occasion. No parent is patient and unhurried all the time. Parents aren't always in the best mood. A stern tone is sometimes needed when a parent is correcting a child's unacceptable behavior. It's the constant criticism, however constructive, negative attitude, and an ongoing air of impatience that can leave a child feeling worth less than they are.
It is only natural that the children of detached parents who don't take time to revel in the child's valuable qualities, but go through life acting as if child rearing is a burden they'd rather not bear, will grow up mirroring this image in their attitude. Children will believe about themselves what they've been consistently told. Actions and non-verbal communication will be perceived as truths and accepted by the child. This makes for a sad situation if the child doesn't come from a good home. Even a bullying, critical sibling or peers that act in the same manner can keep a child from developing an accurate view of their own self. Later on in life, if the child is surrounded by different individuals that treat them differently, their personal view may change in a more positive manner. The positive attitude can also mirror in the child.
It is important that parents tune into their children at all times. We must actively work to build self-esteem in our children and protect them as best we can from those who seek to destroy it. After all, healthy children grow into healthy adults. So be a positive mirror in which your children can view themselves and remember that the image of them that you are projecting may be the one that they accept.
Your Child's Self-esteem by Dorothy Corkille Briggs
Doubleday Publishing Company New York 1970