How’s your child’s self-esteem?

Practical tips to boost confidence in little ones

Self-esteem is one of the most important values we can have. It is that special thing that helps us all to make good choices in life, to take care of ourself and to surround ourself with positive people and energy.


The old adage rings true: respect yourself first if you want others to show you respect.


Values learned early in life tend to form the foundation of your life


As adults one of the best ways to encourage the children in our lives to have confidence and high self-esteem is by having these qualities ourselves. Children will often mimic their parents and caregivers, and they look to us as an example to follow.


When they see their parent’s taking time to prepare healthy meals,  to exercise, to be well- groomed and to enjoy their favorite hobbies – all things that show  respect for oneself, it creates a positive example for the child. “If mommy cares about herself enough to eat foods that make her healthy, and to take time to read her favorite books, that’s something that I want to do, too.” These lessons learned early in life often forms the foundation by which a young person lives their lives.  As adults we have learned that having respect for ourselves impacts personal and professional relationships, physical health and emotional well-being, education and learning, and our ability to be happy and fulfilled in life.


When kids have low self-esteem, it can impact many areas of their lives. According to, “A child with low self-esteem may face challenges which can become sources of major anxiety and frustration. Kids who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. If given to self-critical thoughts such as “I’m no good” or “I can’t do anything right,” they may become passive, withdrawn, or depressed. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response might be “I can’t.”


Sometimes it is hard to know how to help a child with low self-esteem. At I Can! Kids, we envision a world whre all children have the confidence and strength to dream big and achieve anything they set their mind to. Kids with confidence grow up and continue to achieve remarkable things in society. They can, in fact, change the world.


7 Tips for Fostering Healthy Self-Esteem in Children:


  1. Words can speak louder than actions. It’s usually the reverse, “actions speak louder than words,” however to make a point, kids can be sensitive to parents’ and others’ words. We need to praise our children not only for a job well done, but also for effort but in a truthful way. For example, if our child doesn’t make the soccer team, we should avoid saying, “Well, next time you’ll work harder and make it.” Instead, we can say, “Well, you didn’t make the team, but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it.” Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.

    Sometimes, a child’s skill level is just not there…yet (and sometimes ever), so helping our kids overcome disappointments can really help them learn what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. As adults, it’s OK to say “I can’t carry a tune” or “I couldn’t kick a ball to save my life,” so use warmth and humor to help our kids learn about themselves and to appreciate what makes them unique.


  1. Be a positive role model. If we’re excessively harsh on ourselves, pessimistic, or unrealistic about our abilities and limitations, our kids might mirror those qualities. We need to work hard every day to nurture our own self-esteem and they’ll have a great role model.


  1. Identify and redirect false beliefs. It’s important as parents or teachers to identify our kids’ irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping our kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept.

    False perceptions of self can take root and become reality to kids. For example, a child who does very well in school but struggles with math may say, “I can’t do math. I’m a bad student.” Not only is this a false generalization, it’s also a belief that can set a child up for failure. Encouraging our kids to see a situation in a more objective way mighg incluce a response such as, “You are a good student. You do great in school. Math is a subject that you need to spend more time on. We’ll work on it together.”


  1. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Our love helps to boost our children’s self-esteem. Let’s hug and tell our kids we are proud of them when we see them putting effort toward something or trying something at which they previously failed.

We need to give praise often and honestly, but without overdoing it. Having an inflated sense of self can lead kids and teens to put others down or feel that they’re better than everyone else, which can be socially isolating.


  1. Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like “You always work yourself up into such a frenzy!” will make our kids feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, “I can see you were very angry with your brother, but it was nice that you were able to talk about it instead of yelling or hitting.” This acknowledges a child’s feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time.


  1. Create a safe, loving home environment. Kids who don’t feel safe or are abused at home are at greatest risk for developing poor self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may feel they have no control over their environment and become helpless or depressed.

    Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect our kids’ self-esteem. Let’s encourage our kids to talk to us or other trusted adults about solving problems that are too big to solve by themselves.


  1. Help kids become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both kids. Volunteering and contributing to our local community can have positive effects on self-esteem for everyone involved.



“Children with a healthy sense of self-esteem feel that the important adults in their lives love them, accept them, and would go out of their way to ensure their safety and well-being.”



Need help identifying if your child is struggling? Take this quiz found at Pediatrics

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