Developing Healthy Self-Esteem in Children

What is Self-esteem?

Self-esteem is defined as the individual’s personal sense of self-worth or self-value. This personal sense of self-worth can include ideas about an individual’s abilities, behaviors, appearance, and belief system. This includes beliefs about themselves as a unique individual and how much they can contribute to the world.

Why is a Healthy Self-esteem so Important to Cultivate?

Self-esteem plays an important role in motivation and success as a person grows from infancy to adulthood. While a high self esteem alone may not be enough for a person to accomplish anything and everything, research has shown that a healthy sense of self-esteem plays an important role in achieving success and happiness. Having a healthy self-esteem provides individuals with the inspiration and capacity to carry out their various dreams, ideas, and aspirations as they navigate life’s difficulties. Plus, it provides individuals with the motivation they need to take care of themselves, make good decisions, and explore their full potential.

Children and Self-Esteem

Individuals begin to develop their own personal self-esteem in infancy. Children begin to develop positive feelings of self esteem as a direct result of the care and attention they receive from responsible caregivers. As babies grow, these positive feelings increase as they acquire new skills and receive both praise and positive attention from their parents and caregivers. As children prove competent in areas that test the limits of their skills and capabilities, they feel confident to try new things that further develop positive feelings of value, esteem and self-worth.

Growing Up

Children who develop positive feelings of value, esteem, and self-worth, tend to feel confident, be proud of what they can do and accomplish, feel liked, and believe in themselves. Children who feel good about themselves are usually open to trying new things and are more likely to try their best when presented with new challenges and skill sets.

Children with low self-esteem tend to be critical and hard on themselves, feel as if they are not as good as other children, remember the times they fail instead of when they succeed, lack confidence and doubt they can do things well. These children also tend to hold back when given the opportunity to try new things out of fear they might make a mistake or not be accepted by their caregivers and/or peers.

How to Help your Child Develop a Healthy Self-Esteem

Children who do not have feelings of value or self-worth can improve individual feelings of values and esteem with help from their caregivers as well as intentional learning experiences designed to trigger in them a sense of mastery and control over the world around them.

Provide opportunities for children to acquire more skills: this is especially important as children grow and mature. Help your child develop more positive feelings of value and esteem by providing them with assistance when trying new tasks and then allowing the child to complete the same tasks on their own. Be patient and allow the child to go at their own pace until they show signs of mastery. As your child becomes frustrated encourage them to think calmly. Observe their progress and come up with positive solutions to address the challenge at hand.

Teach your child the value of making mistakes: Individuals with a healthy self-esteem usually see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Instead of penalizing children for their mistakes, teach them to develop solutions that will help them fix mistakes and become successful the next time they need to complete a given task.

Praise appropriately: Specific, focused forms of praise can help children increase feelings of self-esteem but pay attention to traits that could assist them with completing more difficult tasks in the future. While it might come easier to parents to praise qualities like intelligence or athleticism, studies show that praising effort, progress, and attitude can go a long way. Praising these qualities helps children understand the importance motivation, determination, and a positive mindset. This will help children accomplish both short and more importantly, long-term goals. It is important to praise your child for the effort they put in, even if the task was not completed correctly the first time. Avoid inaccurate praise, or praise that tells children they did well when they obviously did not complete the task correctly.

Nurturing children’s talents and interests: Finding an extra-curricular activity that your child enjoys can help him/her/they discover their own strengths when finding a healthy outlet for other struggles they may be facing. If there are no activities that immediately stand out to your child, consider seeking a mentor who can inspire and build confidence in your child while exploring the things they may enjoy.

Be a role model: Do not hesitate to open up to your child about the things you had to overcome in your life. It is good for your children to hear you talk about your own weaknesses while learning the things you have done to compensate for your short comings. During the conversation be sure to emphasize the problem-solving skills you have developed while overcoming your challenges. Communicate these challenges in a way that re-frames them as an opportunity to learn, grow, and mature.

A positive sense of self is one of the most important tools for both achieving goals as well as overcoming life’s adversity.

If you need support, please call our Parenting HelpLine: 1-800-243-7337

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