We all know that kids are little sponges. After all, how many times do we accidentally hear our own words coming out of their mouths?
The hard part is that it’s pretty much impossible to always monitor everything we say to our little ones, especially when we’re tired, at the end of our ropes or maybe even when we forget that they’re in the room. That doesn’t mean we don’t try our hardest, of course. But now there’s an even better reason to try even harder, and it all has to do with science.
A new study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences has discovered that children develop their sense of self-esteem much earlier than we probably thought: at the ripe young age of five. Apparently that’s the age that children have the same sense of self that adults do, which means most of that learning comes from the home, and not school.
Because parents don’t already worry enough, right?
The study used sensitive techniques to examine whether preschoolers had a positive or negative sense about themselves. Because kids at that age are too young to actually know whether they think they’re a “good” or “bad” person, researchers developed the Preschool Implicit Association Test – an array of specific questions designed to determine how positive kids actually feel about themselves.
But there’s more to the study. Researchers found that in all 200 cases, the children associated themselves with more good than they did bad, both with boys and girls. Additionally, kids who had higher self esteem and own-gender identity showed a preference to be around others of their gender.
So what’s the bottom line? Well, other than exposing your kids to a variety of situations, it’s also probably a good idea to tell them when they’re doing a good job, and to think carefully about the words we use when we’re trying to correct bad behaviour.
Or, to be honest, we should at least keep trying to do those things. Nobody’s perfect. But we think you’re doing a pretty good job.