In many cases, self-esteem and domestic violence go hand in hand.  Low self-esteem can be brought on by a variety of factors, and can be a serious issue for females (and males) who are victims of domestic violence and/or dating violence.

Contrary to what some people believe, dating violence is not just about physical violence.  Often it may exclusively involve emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and stalking.  Basically, dating violence offenders always feel the need to be in control of their partners (victims).  The less control an offender feels, the more they want to hurt and the greater the attempts to control.

If victims of dating violence have low self-esteem, it can cause them to stay in an abusive relationship.  This can lead to serious injuries, and sadly, sometimes death.  A person with high self-esteem can also be affected by dating violence, but generally, someone with high self-esteem will be more empowered to leave a relationship that is marked with a high degree of controlling and abusive behavior.

Dating partners with lower self-esteem have a tendency to stay in abusive dating relationships.  Dating offenders often prey on partners who have low self-esteem, realizing that the victim will want and need the no matter what they do.  Dating partners with lower self-esteem also are often the offenders.  Their feelings of low self-worth lead them to feel that they need to control a partner in order to hang on to them.

Because of the connection between self-esteem and dating violence, it is critical that we teach young people about self-esteem.  Those beliefs about ourselves are generally formed at an early age.  In order to prevent dating violence it is essential that children are introduced to the concept of self-esteem at an early age.

How do we raise our children to have healthy self-esteem?

Here are some tips from “Top 5 Tips for Raising Kids with Good Self-Esteem” by Deb Chitwood:

1)     Give your child positive attention.  Spend time with your child and help your child feel he or she belongs and is significant.

2)     Use positive discipline methods, focusing on communication and logical consequences.

3)     Encourage your child, but don’t give excessive praise or emphasize the outcome.  Encourage their efforts and persistence in a task.  This generates internal satisfaction, and develops positive character traits.  By giving excessive praise or emphasizing the product or outcome, the child is at risk for becoming a praise junkie who’s afraid to try something new.

4)     Be sure that your child knows that your love isn’t dependent upon his/her physical attractiveness.  Girls especially need to know that they’re competent and special for who they are, not how they look.  Healthy bodies can still be encouraged through an emphasis on healthy eating and a lifestyle that includes ways to be physically fit.

5)     Follow your child’s interests.  This ensures that your child feels respected and provides him/her with the greatest chance of self-motivation and success.

When a healthy self-esteem is held by our children and young adults, they are less likely to get into and/or stay in an abusive dating relationship or to become an abuser.

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