Building Self-Esteem in Children
Written by: Kayla Polk
“I’ll never make the basketball team.”
“I am not smart enough to compete in the spelling bee.”
“I never do anything right.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? If so, this might be a sign your child is struggling with low self-esteem. Self-esteem is how a person thinks about themselves, and it impacts a variety of factors in children and adolescents, including physical health, coping strategies, interactions with peers, mental health and education. We all deal with low self-esteem at different times in our lives, and as parents, you’ll likely see your child struggle with this too. Below are a few ways to help your child build their self-esteem.
Tips for Building Self-Esteem
1. Provide Support. Research shows that parental support affects self-esteem, especially for girls. Support can include providing more praise than criticism, providing opportunities for children to communicate openly and honestly with you, spending quality time with your child and displaying physical affection. Encourage your child’s interests and help them find their talents.
2. Encourage physical activity. Research shows positive, short-term effects of physical activity on self-esteem in children.Along with the other important benefits of physical activity, encouraging your child to be physically active may also help to boost their self-esteem. Find a fun activity the whole family can participate in to encourage your child’s involvement in physical activity while also spending time together as a family. Children who see their parents or siblings participate in and enjoy physical activities are more likely to participate themselves. Encourage taking part in sports if your child seems interested, or provide active toys for your child to play with, such as jump ropes, balls or bicycles.
3. Praise a child’s efforts, not just the successes. We have all been there: we didn’t come in first place, we didn’t get the job we tried so hard to get, we didn’t get the A+ grade we hoped for, and so forth. Our efforts are just as important as the ending result, and self-esteem is not just about succeeding all the time. Mistakes can help children learn and grow. Talk openly with your child about their mistakes and how they can learn from them for the future. Praise a child’s efforts, progress and attitude as they’re trying to complete a task. For example, “I’m proud of you for working so hard on this spelling homework!”
4. Create actionable goals. You can create goals for your child to try and achieve in various ways. These goals can be related to school, homework, activities outside of school or chores at home, for example. Once you create a goal with your child, you can talk about what skills or steps need to be taken to reach that end goal. Maybe your child wants to score a goal during their upcoming soccer season. Create a plan with your child on how that goal can be achieved. Remember to celebrate your child’s efforts toward the goal as well as the success! Another idea is to create a reward chart with various chores and tasks, which will allow your child to visibly see what goals they can reach and when they accomplish them. This can also help your child to feel more involved in the family and allow them to feel proud for being able to contribute!
5. Teach by example. Children naturally imitate what they observe. Try to model strong self-esteem but also allow your child to see you deal with struggles and conflicts, as this is completely normal throughout life. Don’t pretend to be perfect, but tackle your struggles with positivity and perseverance. Allow your child to see that you believe in yourself.
Here are a few activities you can do with your child to help strengthen their self-esteem. These activities require only a few materials, such as pens, markers and paper.