Does the order of birth affect self-esteem

Self-esteem education

The starting point of this rather bold-sounding assertion is the thesis that people who have been able to develop a strong sense of self-worth and a high level of self-esteem are psychologically stable, can deal appropriately with everyday demands and conflicts and thus also live socially appropriately in contact with others can.

We get an idea of ​​what a child's self-esteem is like when we hear children talk about themselves and their behavior:

Positive self-esteem

Negative self-esteem

I can do it!

It's my turn too!

Look how tall I am!

Next time it will work for sure!


I'll go and find someone to play with!

I can't do that!

I never get a turn!

The others are bigger, better, faster ... than me!

It's no use, I can do it

yes never anything!

Nobody plays with me!


Children with a positive self-esteem speak and act with the basic conviction that they can cope with life's tasks and resolve conflicts,

Children with a negative self-esteem have the basic conviction that they cannot cope with and cannot cope with the situations ahead

Since self-esteem is not innate, but is highly dependent on experiences that children have in their social environment, it is explained below:

  1. how people come to their self-image,
  2. looked for ways in which self-esteem can be strengthened through family and institutional upbringing.

If you deal with the question of what people need in order to become a stable personality, you come across the importance of self-esteem again and again in different theoretical concepts.

For example, there is the concept of the hierarchy of needs, which says that a number of basic human needs can be accepted as given largely independently of cultural influences and that their satisfaction can be seen as a prerequisite for human well-being (physical, psychological, social).

Hierarchy of needs (based on: U. Nuber)


Another concept that deals with the ability to live and the question of what experiences people / children need to develop ability to live comes to the following results:

Fitness for life

In order to raise children to be able-bodied people, parents and professional educators in institutions have to organize the coexistence with children in such a way that they can have essential basic experiences that help them to be self-reliant, self-confident and considerate with themselves and others.

Skills that children need are:

Self-esteem, self-confidence, I - strength

  • I am valuable
  • I trust myself.
  • I can say "no".

Self-control, tolerance to frustration

  • I don't have to have everything right away.
  • I can deal with limits.

Conflict resolution, resilience

  • I face my problems.
  • I won't let myself get down.

Health awareness

  • I treat myself with care.
  • My body is important to me.

Social contact skills, group membership, empathy

  • Other people are important to me.
  • I can make contacts, deepen them and also end them.

Pleasure and experience, joie de vivre, dreams

  • I can enjoy the moment and let my soul dangle.
  • There are many beautiful things to discover in the world.

Dealing with feelings

  • I perceive my feelings, I can allow them and express them.
  • I can deal with my moods.

Future prospects, meaning, values

  • Life is worthwhile and makes sense.
  • I know what I am committed to.
  • There is something I can hold on to.

Dealing with strokes of fate

  • Even if something really bad happens, I don't give up and I know how to deal with it.

When we deal with self-esteem, self-image, the assessment of our importance and our worth, we should first ask ourselves what exactly is meant.

The self-imageof a person is made up of a multitude of images and beliefs and statements that we consider to be true. Some of these are objective statements such as:

  • "I am 1.85 m tall."
  • "I'm a man."
  • "I'm English."
  • "I am black-haired."

To parts of the Self worth these statements are made by the respective rating.

  • "I'm too big / too small."
  • "Unfortunately I am a man."
  • "I am - thank God - English."
  • "Fortunately, I am black-haired."
  • "I'm smart, ugly, lovable, smart, unsporting, worthless," etc.


The Self-image is the sum of the beliefs and images that people have of themselves. The Self worth is the own evaluation system of the self-image.

It corresponds to the standard of the evaluation of our characteristics and says whether, how, to what extent we recognize and like ourselves.

Our self-assessment then gives rise to the level of our self-respect.
Self-esteem is the good or bad reputation I have for myself and it decides whether I develop the confidence to be able to cope with life and meet its demands or whether I consider myself incompetent, inferior and unlovable.

How is the self-image created?

How is it that we have such different images of ourselves? How and on what basis do we form our judgments about ourselves?

A large part of the basic attitudes that we have about ourselves are imparted to us as children, essentially through the following 3 sources:

My self-image is created through

the behavior that others show towards me, e.g .:

  • Are the people around me happy about me?
  • Am I being looked after and cared for with benevolence?
  • Do I have positive experiences with physical contact and closeness?
  • Do I experience tenderness?


  • Do the people around me signal that I am a burden?
  • Will I only be provided for in a makeshift manner?
  • Do I miss closeness?

other people's conversations about me that show me how others see and appreciate me, e.g .:

  • How do my parents talk about me?
  • What do you tell other parents?
  • How do my educators / teachers in kindergarten and school talk about me?
  • What do other children say when I come?

through my own assessment of what I do and what I am doing and what I am.

  • Do I have play and activity material that stimulates and supports my urge to discover?
  • Do I have play options that confirm that I can cope with problems?
  • Am I confronted with requirements that challenge me appropriately and encourage me to get to the bottom of things?

Of course, the examples apply in particular to the area of ​​early childhood imprints, i.e. to the area in which parents and educators influence the self-image development of children, but the basic pattern also applies to our own development as adults.

Self-esteem develops and changes throughout our life, always depending on the respective life situation. It is entirely possible that someone whose self-esteem enables them to lead a completely satisfactory life will be thrown off course by a change in their social situation.

Classic crises and threats to self-esteem are unemployment and bullying.

How can parents, educators, teachers strengthen children's self-esteem?

Self-esteem education means asking yourself what children need in order to develop a healthy sense of self-worth.

To develop a positive self-esteem, children need experience and security in the following 5 areas:

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1. Right to exist

  • "I as a person have a right to my existence, detached from the fulfillment of expectations"
  • "I'm fine the way I am!"
  • "I am not only loved when I" earn "love through adaptation, good behavior, good performance ..."

Children learn very early about the legitimacy of their existence through first affection, warmth, nutrition and other partly non-verbal signals and reactions. They get the basic message as to whether they are “important”, i. H. whether they have a place in this world, a right to exist, detached from all achievements and the fulfillment of expectations. A child feels safest when they believe and experience that they are loved unconditionally, when they can be sure that even inappropriate behavior will not harm their parents' love. If the parents' love is conditional, they learn that if they behave well, they are good people and bad people if they behave badly. It learns that its worth depends heavily on good behavior and on being such that others are satisfied. If a child experiences unconditional appreciation, it becomes sure of itself and can deal more appropriately with mistakes, criticism, differences and limits because its existence is not threatened. The right to exist has something to do with basic trust, with the unconditional security of being able to rely on the immediate reference person and also on oneself.

2. Competence

  • "I am trusted that I have skills".
  • "I have the opportunity to try out"
  • "I am encouraged to have new experiences (" Try it, you can do it ")

Competence means that a child has a belief that they can influence something, and most adults help children develop competence if they believe in their abilities before they have been demonstrated or proven. A major mistake that is often made in education and training is that results are valued higher than the learning process. The message: “It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, whether you achieve something or not, it comes up the attempt “, promotes activity, curiosity, confidence in one's own ability, competence. For upbringing, this means that encouragement, concentration on what has been achieved and not on what is missing, strengthens children's self-esteem development. Adults should focus their efforts in this area on stimulating learning and developing and showing confidence in the child.

3. Connectedness and separation

  • I am unique as a person and at the same time I am a member of the community. "
  • "The special thing about me is honored e.g. through rituals such as birthdays, through the right to idiosyncrasies, own toys, secrets are respected, etc."
  • "I belong to a family, a group, an association ..."
  • "I am part of the whole, the meaning of which is made clear to me through family rituals, joint activities, promoting group membership, emphasizing a sense of community ..."

Self-esteem can only develop when a balance between connection and separation from other individuals is developed. Connectedness means the feeling of belonging to others (family, group, class ...), the feeling of experiencing oneself as part of the whole, while at the same time being aware of individual uniqueness. We must be able to differ, be different, not completely subordinate our worth to the evaluation of others. The living spaces of children (family, kindergarten, school) must be designed in such a way that on the one hand there is a strengthening of the we-feeling (as a family, group, class), and at the same time each child has a place as an individual with its peculiarities and peculiarities.

4. Realism

  • "I have everything I need for life, but I am neither the greatest nor too stupid for everything."
  • "I have strengths and weaknesses and both belong to me."
  • "I can adequately assess my options."
  • "I have the experience that my" downsides "are also part of myself and yet I am liked and recognized, appreciated and respected."

An essential part of developing healthy self-esteem is “accepting the shadows”. Only the integration of my shadow, my limitations, my imperfections enables me to develop an appropriate self-image. Realistic assessment of ourselves and the world is one of the pillars of stable self-worth. Whether I have an idealized image of myself (“I am the greatest”) or an unrealistically negative image (“I am too stupid for anything”), both prevent me from developing a healthy self-esteem. A sense of reality includes the realization that no one is perfect, that every person has faults, that every person has strengths and weaknesses, the strong fixation of many adults on few children (little princes), the ignoring of obvious impairments, the overestimation of ideal and wishful images Simultaneous negation of weaknesses and mistakes ... all of this makes it difficult for children to get a realistic picture of themselves. In a perfectionist world in which mistakes are a flaw, in which the impression of being able to achieve something like "perfection" is what it is extremely difficult to integrate this part. It is important to see and respect children within their performance limits, strike a balance between positive and negative feedback, and let children experience success and failure in an appropriate way.

Adults should ask themselves critically:

  • How do we give feedback about performance levels?
  • How do we give feedback about weaknesses and limits (devaluation, cynicism, sarcasm ..)?

5. Ethical principles,

  • "I know norms, values, ideals that help me to find my way around the world." "My surroundings familiarize me with rules, values ​​and ideals."
  • "I experience models that exemplify values ​​for me."

Ethical principles and values ​​provide children with the necessary guidance for their behavior in many often confusing situations in life. Once a child has learned to fall back on "golden" rules, they can decide how to behave in confusing situations. Ethical principles and values ​​familiarize children with ideals and systems of norms and, if they can internalize these values, help them to feel good about being able to remain true to themselves. (Formation of conscience) A major problem in the development of a stable value system is the contradiction and inconsistency between the reality of values ​​experienced and the expectations placed on children, which are often opposite (violence, honesty, humanity). Here, too, children learn more from the realities they experience than the ideas they express.


The development of a stable self-esteem depends to a large extent on experiences and feedback in the areas outlined above. Parents should review their actions again and again to see what messages they are sending out in relation to the value of the children they are entrusted with and what effect their actions have on them Often it is not the big, dramatic actions that influence personality development, but the daily small feedback and signals.

Often heard sentences like

  • You of all people have to say something like that.
  • Don't be so silly.
  • What should the others think of you?
  • You don't mean that at all.
  • What else can you expect from you?
  • Don't look that stupid.
  • You have no idea

or sentences like:

  • Try it.
  • You are old enough.
  • You can already do that.
  • You'll be fine.
  • Glad you tried
  • Next time you'll be able to do it.
  • Tell me.

leave decisive traces in the long term.


  • Ursula Nuber (1995): The rediscovery of security, Psychologie heute, vol. 22, issue 12 pp. 20-27.
  • L.T.Sanfort, M.E. Donavan (1994): Self-esteem, Psychologie Heute, Vol. 21, Heft11, pp. 20-27
  • Grün, Anselm (1995): Developing self-worth, coping with powerlessness, Stuttgart, Kreuz Verlag

Under the main theme: "Help for parents", the following brochures can be obtained directly from the author:

  • Help for parents 1: "My child is going to school"
  • Help for parents 2: "Puberty - When the parents get weird"
  • Help for parents 3: "Always do this homework"
  • Help for parents 4: "Setting limits"
  • Help for parents 5: "Concentration"
  • Help for parents 6: “How does a family work?”

Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook


Klaus Fischer, qualified social pedagogue, child and adolescent psychotherapist, family therapist, supervisor


Klaus Fischer
Advice center for parents, children and young people
Oststrasse 42
57302 Schmallenberg, Germany

Tel .: 02972 2288


Created on November 13th, 2002, last changed on October 10th, 2013