You know there are a lot of things in Baby’s not-so-distant future that could test their self-esteem, from mean kids on the playground to that one subject in school that they just won’t be able to grasp as well as they'd like. They may be a few years away from these threats to their sense of self, but it’s never too early to start building up their defenses so that when they come, they will be ready.
Baby see, baby do
One of the biggest components in Baby’s self-esteem is their confidence in their ability to cope with whatever life throws at them. And one of the most important ways they figure that out is by watching you model proportionate, reasonable responses to the challenges the world can introduce.
The way you act around Baby is a strong influence on what they think is normal, and the way they view the world. If they see you and your partner reacting with panic any time something small goes wrong, they may start to build up the idea that any small challenge is a catastrophe, and they may not feel equipped to handle that. On the other hand, if they see a model of stoic acceptance even of problems that genuinely are catastrophic, they may start to feel, as they grow up, that having negative responses when bad things happen means that they can’t cope with problems, which can hurt their sense of self-worth.
The gift of your presence
When Baby was a newborn, you started laying the groundwork for their self-esteem by meeting their needs, which gave them both the sense of being safe and happy and the beginnings of the sense that the fact that they were safe and happy was important to somebody, and the proto-understanding of their value. You’re still doing that every day, when you make them breakfast, change that dirty diaper, or read them a story at night, but it’s not just the fact of their physical well-being that’s important. The time you spend with them, one-on-one, engaging with them and looking them in the eye, is becoming increasingly important as they grow older, and differentiates themself from you further, and your opinion grows more and more important to them.
Baby Marco Polo
Baby has been getting more and more mobile since they first learned to roll over, and they have been curious about the world since long before that. Giving them the chance to explore their environment, with your watchful eye on them to make sure they doesn’t get into any trouble both gives them the sense of freedom to help them build the confidence that’s crucial to their sense of self-worth while, at the same time helping them feel safe knowing you’re close.
If they run into an obstacle in their adventures and it doesn’t put them in any danger, try waiting a moment to intervene, and giving them the chance to solve the problem for themself. The knowledge that they can rely on themself to resolve issues as they come up is another important building block in the structure of their self-esteem.