Self-esteem and socialization

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Stacy Miller, licensed professional clinical counselor at Sawmill Family Arbor Counseling finds that society often stereotypes boys as more confident with higher levels of self-esteem than girls, which may not be that accurate. "I've personally often seen more boys struggle with self-esteem issues than girls," she said. "However, as children grow into the teen years, body image tends to play a big role in low self-esteem for girls as they struggle to meet a 'standard' set by the media and peers."

Belinda Williamson has two sons, Cody, age 23, and Miles, age 8. She found that her older son seemed to be more conscious of self-esteem issues. "Since I raised him as a single mom, I know I was usually more worried about things and he often picked up on my concerns, which I feel affected his self-esteem," she said.

Kathryn H. Leugers, Psy.D., MBA with Meers, Inc. Consulting Psychologists in Columbus, said that in middle childhood, both genders are focused on activities that build their self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment. "In adolescence, teenagers are very focused on developing a sense of identity separate from that of their parents, so there is gravitation toward their peers," she said. "In socializing, girls will often prefer more verbal activities (talking, texting), while boys will often prefer more action-oriented activities that allow them to interact through a joint task (video games, sports)."

To aid in a child's positive self-esteem, Miller encourages parents to find out in what ways their child feels the most loved and encouraged, and consistently express things to the child in that specific way. "For example, one child may feel more loved through a parent spending quality time with him, while another child may feel most loved when his or her parent hugs him," she said. "Children, regardless of their gender, seem to experience love from their parents in different ways."

The Martins, with twin boys, age 8, and a daughter, age 10, have found that their daughter is more conservative with the clothing she picks out, while the boys could care less what they wear. "Kayana has young girl cousins who live in Westerville and they love to wear the scarves and hats that the kids are wearing today," said Jackie Martin. "Kayana simply enjoys wearing jeans and plain shirts."

Williamson said her 8-year-old isn't worried about looks or physical appearance. She thinks boys are easier in this regard since they don't care what they wear. "It doesn't even have to be clean," she said. "Boys are just so easy-going. Miles could have chocolate sauce smeared down his neck and think nothing of it. He couldn't care less whether his shirt is on backward or inside out."

Molly Milligan is the mother of three girls, ages 7, 11 and 14. She is a former high school teacher and currently a home educator and grammar/writing tutor. She finds that boys tend to need more action-oriented learning processes. "With girls, you can often simply read the material and they can comprehend it," she said.

When focusing on schoolwork, Martin said their daughter is very independent and driven to get her work completed. "Andrew tries to be like his big sister and do his work, too," she said. "With Duncan, it takes more effort to get his work done. If he is interested in the topic, he'll learn all about it. If not, he just doesn't care."

Miller said that girls usually have stronger verbal skills, speak words at an earlier age, and have a larger and more complex vocabulary, while boys tend to have stronger spatial skills. Depending on a child's age and skill level, boys also tend to be better at mathematics and problem solving.

For more information on parenting and communicating with your child:

  • How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • The Essence of Parenting, by Anne Johnson and Vic Goodman
  • Kathryn H. Leugers, Psy.D., MBA, Meers, Inc. Consulting Psychologists (614) 451-0176, Miller, licensed professional clinical counselor, Sawmill Family Arbor Counseling (614) 766-0161,

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