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Raising Your Child's Self-Esteem

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KEY POINTS

  • Self-esteem is how children think and feel about themselves. High self-esteem is important because when children are confident, they usually get along better with other people and can get more done. High self-esteem helps children lead fuller, more satisfying lives. If children have low self-esteem, they may be afraid to try doing things that could bring success. They may overeat, drink, or take drugs to make themselves feel better. They may distrust others and have problems with friends and family.
  • Focus on things your child can do, things your child is good at, and things that make your child feel proud. Tell your child that you love them each day. Set goals that are realistic for your child. Praise effort, not just outcome.
  • When correcting your child's behavior, focus on the behavior rather than blaming your child.

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What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how children think and feel about themselves. If children usually like themselves and feel they deserve good things in life, they have high self-esteem. If children dislike themselves or put themselves down, they have low self-esteem.

High self-esteem is important because when children are confident, they usually get along better with other people and can get more done. High self-esteem helps children lead fuller, more satisfying lives. If children have low self-esteem, they may be afraid to try doing things that could bring success. They may overeat, drink, or take drugs to make themselves feel better. They may distrust others and have problems getting along with friends and family.

Children may have low self-esteem sometimes, like when they don’t excel at sports. They may also have high self-esteem at other times, like when they do well in school.

How can I help increase my child’s self-esteem?

The way children see themselves depends on messages from others, especially parents. Here are some ideas to help raise your child's self-esteem:

  • Tell your child that you love them and that you value them without overdoing it. Spend time with them, listen to them, and give them hugs. Ask their opinion and let them make decisions when appropriate. Help them to feel like part of the family and let them do things to help each day. A young child can help set the table for dinner, and an older child can make their bed.
  • Be a role model. When you accept and have confidence in yourself, your child learns that this is a good way to be. Children identify strongly with parents. If you have high self-esteem, it helps your whole family to be more optimistic, confident, and better able to manage life's struggles.
  • Get to know your child’s friends and welcome them to your home. Friends can have a big impact on how your child feels about himself or herself. Talk with your child about friendships that are not healthy or positive. Help your child find ways to meet new friends if needed.
  • Help your child to choose activities that they can feel good about. Set goals that are realistic. If you expect too much, your child may believe they must be perfect to be loved.
  • Respect your child's unique qualities. Your child is unlike any other and should be loved for who they are. Don’t compare your child with friends, siblings, or yourself as a child. Focus on things your child can do, things your child is good at, and things that make your child feel proud.
  • Praise effort, not just outcome. Even if your child does not make the team, win the spelling bee, or play the lead in the school play, tell your child that you are proud of them. Your child may not be first, best, or perfect in a particular event or activity, but praise them for trying or for improving. On the other hand, don’t give empty compliments. Your child can tell when you are being truthful and mean what you say.
  • Watch what you say. When correcting your child's behavior, focus on the behavior rather than blaming your child. For example, instead of saying "You're lazy," say, "I'm concerned about your grade in math. What do you think you can you do to improve it?"
  • Teach your child that he or she can make mistakes or fail at a task and still feel good about himself or herself. Let your child learn by trying and making mistakes. Don't always try to protect or rescue your child. Teach your child the importance of trying again. Take the time to answer questions and help your child think of other options. When your child solves a problem on their own, they gain confidence and feel successful. If you solve your child’s problems, you teach them to be dependent on you.
  • Teach your child to think about himself or herself in positive terms, like, "I am a kind and caring person."
  • Encourage your child to help others. Feeling like they are making a difference is a great self-esteem builder.
  • Limit your child’s contact with social networking sites. Watch for negative comments or signs of bullying that can affect your child’s self-esteem.

If your child has problems with respecting or liking himself or herself, talk to a healthcare provider or a therapist. Low self-esteem may be linked to depression or anxiety. Seeing a therapist may help your child learn to manage their moods and feelings.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-02-18
Last reviewed: 2019-02-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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