10 Ways to Build Positive Self Esteem in Children
One of the core things we can all agree on as parents
is that helping a child to develop positive self-esteem
is very important. It is one of the corner stones
to a mentally healthy life. Positive self-esteem
allows children to be brave and reach out to try
new things. Without knowing it, a positive feeling
of self-worth allows children to fail without being
failures. A parent, who through actions, shows a
child that no matter what he does he is loved, helps
their child develop a positive sense of belonging.
And it is the belief that they belong, that what
they say and do matters, empowers children to have
We have modified ten ways to build self-esteem that
we found on-line at the parent center.
Give unconditional love. A child's self-esteem
flourishes with the kind of no-strings-attached
that says, "I love you, no matter who you are
or what you do." Your child benefits the most
when you accept her for who she is regardless of
her strengths, difficulties, temperament, or abilities.
So lavish her with love. Give her plenty of cuddles
and kisses. And don't forget to tell her how much
you love her. When you do have to correct your child,
make it clear that it's her behavior - not her -
that's unacceptable. Instead of saying, "You're
a naughty girl! Why can't you be good?" say, "Pushing
Olivia isn't nice. It can hurt. Please don't push."
Pay attention. Carve out time to give your child
your undivided attention. That does wonders for your
child's self-worth because it sends the message that
you think he's important and valuable. It doesn't
have to take a lot of time; it just means taking
a moment to stop flicking through the mail if he's
trying to talk with you or turning off the TV long
enough to answer a question. Make eye contact, so
it's clear that you're really listening to what he's
saying. When you're strapped for time, let your child
know it without ignoring his needs. Say, "Tell
me all about the picture you drew, and then when
you're finished, I'll need to finish my work."
3) Teach limits. Establish a few reasonable rules.
For instance, if you tell your child she has to eat
in the kitchen, don't let her wander around the family
room or sit at the computer eating the next day.
Knowing that certain family rules are set in stone
will help her feel more secure. It may take constant
repetition on your part, but she'll start to live
by your expectations soon enough. Just be clear and
consistent and show her that you trust her and expect
her to do the right thing.
4) Offer choices. A good rule of thumb: Let your
child choose between possibilities that make you
comfortable. He'll gain confidence with each opportunity
to make a decision. Letting him know that you have
faith in his judgment increases your child's sense
Support healthy risks. Encourage your child to
explore something new, such as trying a different
food, including a new best pal in weekend plans,
or going on a camp trip. Though there's always the
possibility of failure, without risk there's little
opportunity for success. So let your child experiment
safely, and resist the urge to intervene. For instance,
try not to "rescue" her if she's showing
mild frustration at figuring out how to navigate
or decide on which extra curricular activity she
will participate. Jumping in to outline the options
without being asked can foster dependence and diminish
your child's confidence. You'll build her self-esteem
by balancing your need to protect her with her need
to tackle new tasks.
6) Let mistakes happen. The flip side, of course,
of having choices and taking risks is that sometimes
your child is bound to make mistakes. These are valuable
lessons for your child's confidence. When you goof
up yourself, admit it, says Daniel Meier, assistant
professor of elementary education at San Francisco
State University. Acknowledging and recovering from
your mistakes sends a powerful message to your child
- it makes it easier for your child to accept his
7) Make success a snap. Set clear non-negotiable
boundaries and then allow her to make decisions within
them. By giving her structure and the resources to
take care of her own needs, you'll help foster independence
and pride in her ability to do things for herself.
Celebrate the positive. It's sometimes too easy
to tally up all the things a child does wrong, but
everyone responds well to encouragement, so make
an effort to acknowledge the good things your child
does every day within his earshot. For instance,
tell his dad, "Mike took out the trash this
morning." He'll bask in the glow of your praise
and his dad's heartening response. And be specific.
Instead of saying "Good job," say, "Thank
you for waiting so patiently in line at the store
for me." This will enhance his sense of accomplishment
and self-worth and let him know exactly what he did
Listen well. If your child needs to talk, stop
and listen to what she has to say. She needs to
that her thoughts, feelings, desires, and opinions
matter. Help her get comfortable with her emotions
by labeling them. Say, "I know you're sad because
camp is over." By accepting her emotions without
judgment, you validate her feelings and show that
you value what she has to say. If you share your
own feelings ("I'm excited about going to the
play with you"), she'll gain confidence in expressing
Provide encouragement. Every child needs the kind
of support from her loved ones that signals, "I
believe in you. I see you trying. Keep going!" Encouragement
means acknowledging progress - not just rewarding
achievement. It means thanking your child for cleaning
her room, even if she missed some under her bed.
It means smiling in support as she struggles to complete
a task, in spite of it not being the exact way you
would have completed it.
a difference between praise and encouragement.
One rewards the task while the other rewards the
person ("You did it!" rather than "I'm
proud of you!"). Praise can make a child feel
that she's only "good" if she does something
perfectly. Encouragement, on the other hand, acknowledges
the effort. "Tell me about your game. I see
that you scored" is more helpful than saying, "Your
team won that is great." Too much praise can
sap self-esteem because it can create pressure to
perform and set up a continual need for approval
from others. So dole out the praise judiciously and
offer encouragement liberally; it will help your
child grow up to feel good about herself.
by Andrea and Scott Ralls
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