Self-esteem is defined as “a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself.” It is important to foster a positive self-concept in our children because their success depends on it. Thankfully, as a parent, there are many things you can do to help your child build self esteem.
Children with high self-esteem are likely to be independent, take on responsibility, and take pride in their accomplishments, but also learn from their mistakes. They will try new things without fear of failure. When your child has low self-esteem, they are easily frustrated with new tasks and display self-deprecating behavior, such as calling themselves stupid.
Luckily, as parents, you have the most influence on your child's self-esteem. By incorporating these five methods into your daily life, you can build a strong foundation for your child to have a positive outlook on life.
How to Help Your Child Build Self-Esteem
1. Be Quick With Praise
Oftentimes parents are quick to tell a child when they are doing something wrong, but not when they do something good. Praise them often so they know that you notice, appreciate, and respect them.
Reward their good behavior with positive acknowledgment and encouraging words. And when you can, let your child overhear you telling someone else how proud you are of him or her.
This doesn't meant praise them for absolutely everything they do, but find opportunities to positively reinforce the behaviors you value. Look for situations where they are showing great effort, trying a new challenge, or overcoming a difficulty. Let them know when you notice that they are following the rules, doing chores without reminders, or behaving kindly towards others.
Positive reinforcement is wonderful and necessary, but don't go overboard. While we want to build our children's self-esteem, we don't want them to become egotistical.
Make sure you praise behaviors that keep a self-centered attitude in check. For example, praise your child when they are humble or do good deeds anonymously for others.
2. Be Specific
As previously mentioned, be generous with your praise. Try to be as descriptive as possible, instead of just saying “good job” say “I'm very proud of how hard you studied for your spelling test!”
If your child is afraid to do something, but overcomes their fear and does it anyway, let them know how proud you are of them. This is an easy tactic to build self esteem.
3. Make Them Talk the Talk
Teach your child how to speak positively of them self. Your thoughts affect how you feel about yourself, and in turn how you behave. Positive statements like “I am brave” and “I am loved” can be remarkably powerful tools to build self esteem.
If you were to constantly berate yourself, you would become depressed and anxious. By practicing positive self-statements with your child, you continue to reinforce a positive outlook.
This is a fun activity to do as a family. Go around the dinner table and have each person say one thing they like about each other member of the family. This is a great way for family members to discover strengths and positive traits they might not even know they have!
Also, tell your child “I love you” at least once, if not multiple times, a day. Especially remember to tell them you love them when you have to discipline them. This reinforces the stability of your relationship with them since your love endures no matter what mistakes they make.
4. Avoid Name Calling
When you discipline your child, focus on their actions and not the child to build self esteem. Calling them a slob because their room is a mess is much less productive that requesting they clean their room and thanking them for doing so.
Similarly, avoid labeling your child negatively. If your child is constantly told he or she is lazy, unreliable, or disrespectful, those words will start to define them.
State the behavior or action you want your child to take so your child can take control of the situation and rise to your expectation instead of feeling defeated by a failure or mistake that's already occurred. For example, if your child has forgotten to clear her dish from the table, ask her to please do so and to help finish cleaning up from dinner.
5. Setting Goals
Teach your child the significance of setting a goal and completing tasks to reach it. Start off with small tasks you know they can accomplish easily to build their confidence.
Praise them for completing their goal, but also for the achievements they reach along the way. While occasional rewards might be good incentives, instead focus on letting the satisfaction of completing a goal be the main objective.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. But by accepting and praising your children for who they are, you build a strong mental foundation. Encourage them to make positive choices and praise them often for their accomplishments.
Focus on the positive and so will they. This positive outlook on life will in turn help build self esteem.
Additional Resources to Build Self Esteem
The strategies above will go a long way in helping your child build self esteem. If you're interested in additional reading on the topic, here are some additional resources.
- Focus on the Family has an excellent article on Building Self-Esteem in Your Kids that focuses on cultivating acceptance, belonging and competence.
- This article on Self Esteem from the Child Development Institute has several other parenting strategies you can use beyond those I've listed above.
- If you have daughters, here are specific ways to Raise a Confident Girl.