Somewhere I read a study which found that 80% of five-year-olds have a healthy self-image. By the time they’ve reached twelfth grade, only 5% do. So what happens?

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, has written a book that helps us think about that. It’s titled, Kid Confidence: Help Your Child Make Friends, Build Resilience, and Develop Real Self-Esteem.

Kennedy-Moore says that self-esteem issues often begin to surface about ages eight to ten, which she calls the “Judging-Myself Stage.” She says:

“Kids this age are often harshly self-critical. They’re very aware of the gap between how they want to be and how they actually are. It’s hard for them to understand that learning is a process and that building skills takes time. If they’re not immediately successful at some activity, they jump to the conclusion that they’re ‘no good’ at doing it.”

Of course, it’s hard for kids “to understand that learning is a process and that building skills takes time.” They live so completely in the present! They haven’t lived long enough to learn from the past or project into the future, as adults can.

This is just the way kids are. Living in the now is one of the things that makes them so delightful to us. But it can make things a little scary for them.

I remember, when I was in the third grade, being intimidated by those “big, competent” sixth graders. If a grownup had told me I would soon be like them, it would have made about as much sense to me is if they had told me I would soon be living on Mars.

By the way, Kennedy-Moore says the best way adults can help support self-esteem during this stage is to try to soften their harsh judgments of themselves. She says:

“When our child says, ‘I can’t do anything right!’ we can say, ‘You’re struggling with this activity right now.’  We can offer support to help them keep trying or express our confidence that they’ll be able to figure things out if they stick with it…They need to be able to have a path forward instead of feeling stuck being ‘bad’.”

Kids live in the now—and bring us delight. We live in the world of experience—and bring stability. A pretty good trade.

Geoffery Alan Moore