One of the growing concerns in
early childhood development and mental health is that children are exhibiting
less self-esteem and lower confidence at earlier ages. I saw this as a
consistent challenge in my practice, with most children presenting behavioral
issues related to low self-worth.
As a result, it was even more
significant when a child previously hindered by unbelief in themselves or their
abilities began self-confidence and mastery play. I knew that after a few
sessions, there would be a marked difference in their self-esteem and behavior.
This type of play, the second in this series of types of commonly observed
play, allows a child to test their abilities and grow in their belief in
themselves and their capabilities.
An example might look like
Your child sets up plastic
bowling pins and begins to roll the ball towards them. The ball misses all of
the pins. She tries again, and knocks down one. She eventually continues this
until all of the pins are down. She sets the pins up again, and tells you that
she wants to get a strike. This pattern will continue, missing most of them but
not giving up, until the strike is finally achieved.
Most children need to test
their abilities and feel confident in what they can accomplish. This requires
vulnerability and demonstrating weakness, neither of which are comfortable in
many situations. Play time, however, allows a safe and comfortable place to try
and fail until they try and succeed. The success, often hard-earned and time
consuming, proves to them that they can accomplish and master difficult tasks.
This helps them to trust in themselves and be self-aware of their limitations
The benefits of this type of
play are that the child is more comfortable with herself and her confidence increases.
Children with higher self-esteem perform better in school and have better
relationships with peers. Further, the child who recognizes she is fully able
to achieve goals and face challenges does not feel the need to prove herself
with aggression, anger, rebellion, or power struggling.
A child who knows who she is
and what she is good at is not going to push so hard to prove herself to her
peers or her family. Even more important is that when she knows what she is
capable of, she is less likely to be negatively affected by peer pressure and
criticism as she gets older. As an adult, it may be easy to step in and help
with a task that the child seems to be struggling with during play, but that
struggle is the very manner by which the child becomes confident and better
able to handle challenges in the future.