Building Children's Self-Esteem

Having self-esteem is something we all hope our children have but it is becoming more common for children to be expressing signs of low self-esteem and noticing these signs early is key!

Children with self-esteem:

  • feel proud of what they can do

  • feel liked and accepted

  • feel confident

  • believe in themselves

  • think good things about themselves

Children with low self-esteem:

  • are not very confident

  • think they're not as good as other children

  • are self-critical and hard on themselves

  • think of the times they fail rather than when they succeed

  • doubt they can do things well

So Why Does Self-Esteem Matter?

Children who have self-esteem feel good about themselves and have the confidence to try new things.

They are more likely to give a new task their best effort and feel proud of what they can do.

Self-esteem also helps children deal and manage mistakes and helps them to try again, even if they fail at first.

This means that children with self-esteem tend to do better at school, at home and with their friends.

Children with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. If they think others won't accept them, they may not join in. They may let others treat them badly and may have a hard time standing up for themselves, which can lead to bullying.

They may give up easily, or not try at all. Children with low self-esteem struggle when they make a mistake, lose, or fail. And as a result, may not do as well as they could.

How Does Self-Esteem Develop?

Self-esteem can start as early as when your child is a baby.

Self-esteem can develop slowly over time and can start just because a child feels safe, loved, and accepted. It can start when a baby gets positive attention and loving care.

As babies become toddlers and young children, they're able to do some things all by themselves. They feel good about themselves when they can use their new skills causing their self-esteem to grow. Their self-esteem grows when parents pay attention, let their child try, give smiles, and show that they're proud of them.

As children grow, their self-esteem can grow too. Any time a child tries something new can be an opportunity for their self-esteem to grow.

This can happen when kids:

  • get praise for good behaviours

  • try hard at something

  • do things they're good at and enjoy

  • are included by others

  • feel understood and accepted

  • get a prize or a good grade they know they've earned

  • make progress toward a goal

  • learn things at school

  • make friends and get along

  • learn skills — music, sports, art, cooking, tech skills

  • practice favourite activities

  • help, give, or be kind 

How To Build Your Child's Self-Esteem

Self-esteem may come easier to some children than others but even if a child's self-esteem is low there are things that can be done to help raise it.

1) Help your child learn to do things.

At any age, it is important to allow and encourage children to try new things as this can help improve their self-esteem.

When teaching children how to do things, show and help them at first and then let them freely do what they can, even if they make mistakes. Make sure your child has the freedom to learn, try and feel proud.

1) Praising your child, in the right way can have a huge impact on their self-esteem.

Your praise is a way to show that you're proud. But some ways of praising kids can actually backfire.

Here's how to do it right:

  • Don't overpraise. Praise that doesn't feel earned doesn't resonate as true. For example, telling a child he played a great game when he knows he didn't feels hollow and fake. It's better to say, "I know that wasn't your best game, but we all have off days. I am so proud of you for not giving up." Add a vote of confidence: "Tomorrow, you'll be back on your game."

  • Praise effort rather than results. Avoid focusing praise only on results (such as getting an A) or fixed qualities (such as being smart or athletic). Instead, offer most of your praise for effort, attitude, and progress. For example: "You've worked really hard on that project, well done," "You're getting better and better at these maths tests," or, "I'm proud of you for practising guitar— you've really stuck with it." With this kind of praise, children are more likely to put effort into things, work toward goals, and try. And when children do that, they're more likely to succeed!

2) Stop using criticism. The messages children can hear about themselves from others easily translate into how they feel about themselves. Hard words such as "You're so lazy!" are harmful, not motivating. When children hear negative messages about themselves, it can actually harm their self-esteem. Correct your child with patience and focus on what you want them to do next time and if needed, show them how.

3) Be a good role model. When you personally put effort into everyday tasks such as cooking a meal, washing the car or doing the washing up, you are actually setting a good example.

This will help your child learn to put effort into doing things they may not want to do such as their homework, or cleaning up their toys.

Modelling the right attitude is important too. When you do the tasks, do them cheerfully or at least without moaning as this will help teach your child to do the same.

4) Focus on strengths. Pay attention to what your child enjoys and does well at and really focus on these strengths. Placing more of a focus on strengths than weaknesses can help your child feel good about themselves and can help to improve their behaviour.

5) Let children help and give. Self-esteem can also grow when children get to see that what they do actually matters to others. Encouraging children to help out in the house, at school, do a favour for a friend or volunteer can help build self-esteem and encourage other good feelings.

Our 7 week transitional support programme for children moving up to Secondary Schools focuses on building children's self-esteem so that they feel confident moving up to big school.

For more information on our programme please visit our website.


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