Our self-concept, or the way we see ourselves as an individual, becomes more defined as we live and grow. It is an ever-evolving idea that begins in infancy.1 Although your baby may be less than one year old, he is already developing the idea, “I am me!”
This is an exciting—and frightening—time for your child. He still needs to turn to you for support, but he also wants to assert his independence more than ever. During this time, you will get to see just how much he has been watching and learning from you, too. He’ll start to imitate the daily routines he has seen you do and begin to explore and complete tasks on his own, too.2,3
How can I nurture my child’s self-concept and independence?
- Create a safe environment for exploration. Give your baby plenty of opportunities to explore independently and develop his own interests.
- Model self-help skills. Let your baby watch you when you brush your hair, use a napkin, pick out clothes, put on shoes, brush your teeth, and do other self-help everyday activities.
- Let him help around the house. You can help your child develop a positive self-concept and self-help skills by encouraging him to begin doing chores every day, including picking up his toys after playtime.
- Nurture independent decision making. Give your baby ample opportunities to make his own choices like letting him clean himself in the tub with a bath towel, or pick out the pajamas he wants to wear.
- Keep experiences age-appropriate. Experiences that are too challenging may be harmful to your child’s self-esteem because of increased frustration and failure.5,6
- Give positive feedback. Reward your baby’s independent behavior with plenty of praise to boost his self-esteem and self-concept.
- Consider his likes and dislikes. One of the biggest revelations your child will have in developing his self-concept is finding out what he likes, so be aware of his personal preferences! Being thoughtful of his personal preferences will help him understand that he is an individual with his own tastes and needs.
1 Meece, J. L. (1997). Child and Adolescent Development for Educators. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies.
2 What to Expect. Your 11-Month-Old Baby: Baby’s Growing Independence. What to Expect. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/month-by-month/your-child-month-11.aspx.
3 Maryland State Department of Education (2010). Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age.
4 Washington State Department of Early Learning (2012). Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines: Birth through 3rd Grade.
5 Elkind, D. (2001). The Hurried Child: Growing Up too Fast Too Soon. Lavonia, MI: Addison Wesley Longman Publishing.
6 Gellens, S. R. (2013). Building Brains. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.