From the time they’re babies, children receive confidence and love from the people around them. Surrounded by adults who pay attention, provide positive encouragement, and praise him or her for accomplishing new things, a little one slowly gains self-esteem.
When children meet milestones by leaps and bounds, they can gain self-assurance and belief in themselves. But as the world intrudes, this confidence may fade, even as early as kindergarten. So, how do parents build their child’s self-esteem?
Why is self-esteem important?
Children with low self-esteem may be more likely to become dependent on drugs as adults. They may be more prone to depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and eating disorders.
These problems can develop when a child is as young as two years old and worsen as the child ages. In a report published in 2020 by the Bureau of National Vital Statistics, suicide rates among young people from the age of 10 to 24 years old increased by 57.4% from 2007 to 2018. The significant increase reflects a myriad of mental health issues.
Self-esteem levels also affect a child’s performance in school, relationships, activities, and eventually, their jobs.
As a main caregiver, you can do a lot to boost your children’s self-esteem and confidence. When the world tells them otherwise, your voice will remind them they are competent and able to succeed. Use a kind, caring, and encouraging voice while providing criticism that is constructive, not destructive.
What are some tips for boosting children’s self-esteem?
Like adults, children’s needs differ according to age, size, ability, personality, and health. There are many ways parents or caregivers can help foster self-esteem.
While there are no guarantees, a loved one’s continuity and presence can help keep children’s negativity at bay. Remember the following:
- Celebrate efforts and victories, but don’t overpraise. Some parents praise every little detail, even if a child isn’t doing their best. Other parents don’t praise enough, not recognizing achievements that took considerable work. Mistakes and failures will occur, but the handling of them can dictate how confident a child is to try things and persevere.
- Set realistic goals. Introduce activities where your child can be successful. This isn’t to say everything should be easy, since that can create devastation when failure occurs. Instead, allow room for improvement and encourage children to work to achieve their goals.
- Understand that learning comes from teaching. Take time to work with your child on new things. You may have to show them tasks multiple times until they improve. Giving them space to try it themselves is often the best way to help them learn. When your son or daughter fails, don’t dismiss or inflate the failure but ask, “What could you do differently next time that would help you be successful?” Provide a safe space so they can try again later.
- Emphasize that children don’t need to be perfect. Movies, television, and social media often depict an unrealistic version of what others are like or how life should be. Remind your young person that what they see on the screen isn’t always the truth. Fill your family life with fun, challenging experiences that interest your kids and strengthen their relationships.
- Lead by example. Kids need to see you as a role model. Do everything to the best of your ability and with a positive attitude. Your children are watching and often copy what you do. How you deal with failure can affect their own ability to fail with dignity and to try again after setbacks.
Creating and maintaining self-esteem are ongoing processes. Love your children unconditionally, talk to them when they’re succeeding and struggling, and constantly remind them that you’re in their corner.
Doling out household chores is an essential part of building pride and a sense of belonging in a family. You can acknowledge if children complete housework promptly and correctly, but don’t reward them every time for every task, as they shouldn’t expect frequent praise from completing regular responsibilities.
Also try to include opportunities for serving others without a reward. These opportunities could teach kindness and generosity. Serving others helps us gain perspective and shift focus from ourselves.
Different approaches can help growing children develop high self-esteem. Armed with a strong sense of self, they’ll develop independence and self-reliance that can sustain them for life.
- “12 Tips for Raising Confident Kids.” Child Mind Institute. Accessed May 14, 2022. https://childmind.org/article/12-tips-raising-confident-kids/.
- Chapnik Myers, Randi. “11 Tips on Building Self-Esteem in Children.” Today’s Parent, May 1, 2020. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-build-your-childs-self-esteem/.
- Cullins, Ashley. “Want Your Kids to Have High Self-Esteem? Science Says Do This.” Big Life Journal. Accessed May 14, 2022. https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/kids-high-self-esteem.
- Curtin, Sally C. “State Suicide Rates Among Adolescents and Young Adults Aged 10–24: United States, 2000–2018.” National Vital Statistics Report 69, no. 11 (September 2020). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr69/nvsr-69-11-508.pdf.
- Elish, Jill. “Sociologists Find Low Self-Esteem at Age 11 Predicts Drug Dependency at 20.” Florida State University. Accessed May 14, 2022. https://www.fsu.edu/news/2006/04/03/self.esteem/.
- Lyness, D’Arcy. “Your Child’s Self-Esteem.” Nemours KidsHealth, July 2018. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html.
- Santi, Jenny. “The Secret to Happiness Is Helping Others.” Time.com. Accessed May 14, 2022. https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4070299/secret-to-happiness/.