Why is it so important for children to develop self- esteem? As children, much of our self-esteem is formed through the ways in which other people (parents, peers, teachers) interact with us, talk to us, and behave around us. Children with high self- esteem can thrive in any environment—they carry positive feelings like self- acceptance and self- confidence in tasks they perform, they are more likely to try new challenges, and they are better adapted to cope with mistakes and continue to persevere. Children with low self-esteem, in contrast, feel unsure about themselves and their capabilities, may avoid new tasks, give up easily, and find it more challenging to bounce back from mistakes. If your child’s self-esteem is low, all hope is not lost. There are ways to help improve your child’s self- esteem and raise their confidence.
How do you help nurture our child’s self- esteem? Children ultimately want to feel capable, effective, and accepted, and you can help foster this through encouragement and support. Here are some things you can do:
Teach them how to do things.
Many parents believe that it is easier to just do things for their child. Yet, when we teach our children how to do things for themselves, they learn autonomy. Even if they make mistakes along the way, they will feel proud of their work when they master the task.
Praise your child, but avoid over-praising.
It is important to praise your child on their efforts rather than their fixed qualities. It is also important for the praise to feel “earned”. For example, if your child’s team lost in a basketball game, and they do not feel that it was their best effort, it isn’t helpful to tell them that they “played a great game,” because it won’t be taken as genuine. Instead, a statement like “I know that wasn’t your best game, but we all have our off days, and I’m proud of you for not giving up,” is much more powerful.
Focus on their strengths and ban criticism.
Nurture your child’s strengths and avoid using harsh criticism while speaking to them. Replacing statements such as “You’re so lazy!” with “You do such a great job on your chores when you give it your all” shows the child that you value their strengths. Not only will the child feel better about themselves, but they will also be more motivated to complete their tasks.