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In the middle childhood years kids begin to form their self-image, and therefore their self-esteem.
Your child’s developing identity is becoming more complex. Her description of herself should move from physical attributes (“I’m a girl”) to include her beliefs about her personality and emotions (“I like to help people.”) As she begins to understand how she feels about others and how other people feel about her, she will understand that she has many different attributes – some strengths and some weaknesses – and sees many shades of gray instead of seeing herself in simple black and white terms.
As she establishes her identity and personality, she will go through what the psychologist Erik Erikson calls the time of industry vs. inferiority, where she directs her considerable energy to gain useful skills that bring recognition from her peers and the adults in her life. She will base her self-image and therefore her self-esteem in three separate areas: Academic, social, and body image.
Parents and teachers usually value the academic achievements, and there are two main ways you can help your child achieve academic success: (1) Make sure she is in the right “track” or class at school according to her ability, and (2) Schedule time for homework and home study, and be available to offer guidance. If your child is earning good grades, keep up the good work. If she is not, help her learn and practice better study and memory skills like those in the Mental section of this chapter.
Peers usually value social skills and body image, and again, you can help. In the previous chapters we’ve been practicing activities to improve your child’s emotional skills. He should know how to introduce herself, how to listen, how to express herself, and how to read other’s emotions. You can enroll her in athletic teams or in classes to create a potential group of friends, and you can help her practice the skills to become a valuable member of the group.
As far as body image, your child is growing taller, leaning out, and gaining muscle during these years. I’ve offered broad dietary and exercise advice to prevent your child from being the “fat kid,” and you can motivate your child to pursue various exercises and activities to increase strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and skill. The good news is that at this age it is easy to become an admired athlete because most of the other kids don’t know how to practice and don’t have the discipline to do it. Simply by being “trained” can make your child one of the better athletes.
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