A Parent’s Guide to Self-Esteem for Children

Have you been worried about your child’s self-esteem? In this article, Mary Long of Fingal Counselling explains what self-esteem is and gives some tips on recognising signs of low self-esteem and as a parent, how to tackle the problem.

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What is Self-esteem

Self–esteem is the way we feel and think about ourselves, it’s how we measure and compare ourselves to others.  Healthy self-esteem is the foundation of positive mental health.

Self–esteem is a sense of worth or value that a child places on his / herself and is evident in their behaviour and attitudes.

Parents are mirrors for their children and reflect back how they feel about themselves.  Children learn their first lessons on self- esteem from their parents.  A parent’s self–esteem is reflected in his/her parenting style.

The good news is that because self–esteem is learned, it can be changed, for example, active listening to your child makes them feel loved and valued.

Spotting signs of low self-esteem

Here are some of the signs of low self-esteem in children:

  • Child may make negative comments about themselves eg “I am no good at / hopeless / useless at.” May also put others down especially siblings.
  • Fear of failure and mistakes.
  • Avoids doing things.
  • May start bullying behaviours towards others.
  • Gives up quickly and offers excuses they are tired or bored.
  • Has a tendency to blame others rather than owning responsibility for their behaviour.
  • Shows signs of inappropriate behaviour.
  • May get over involved in activities.
  • Over dependence on parents. Children who are often clingy don’t know how to make decisions for themselves.

You might also find Your teen’s self-esteem and Looking After Yourself useful

Tips on Building your child’s Self-Esteem

  1. Be a good role model for your child.
  2. Give your child every opportunity to try out new things. Encourage their talents and passions.
  3. Don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves.
  4. Look for effort rather than performance. Look for small effort rather than success.
  5. Give your child clear guidelines about rules.
  6. Teach your child problem solving skills and coping strategies.
  7. Spend quality time with your child. Show interest in their interests, hobbies, and friends.
  8. Promote social skills make your home a welcoming place to bring friends and if children are younger arrange play dates.
  9. Tell your child how much you love and value them.
  10. Have mutual respect. If you feel you are in the wrong say sorry.
  11. Help your child to find words to manage their feelings.
  12. Teach your children positive self talk

Fingal was set up by Mary Long, an Accredited Counsellor MIACP Early Childhood Educator and Facilitator. Mary has a special interest in mental health working with clients using a holistic approach that includes Mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

How do you try to boost your child’s self-esteem? Please share any tips in the comments below.

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  1. I believe self esteem in children is hugely important. If a child is not able to develop a healthy self esteem level then they are very likely to suffer from low self esteem issues in later life. Its important that we guide our children but also that we allow them to figure out things for themselves as this results in a feeling of accomplishment which will boost their esteem levels.