7 Useful Tips On How to Build Self Esteem in Your Child

Val Mullally

July 7, 2016

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A healthy self-esteem is key to your child’s happiness and success, both now and in the future. Lack of confidence and over-confidence are both signs that a child’s self-esteem isn’t strong. But how can we as parents, help build our child’s self esteem? Thankfully, there are lots of easy ways to bolster our kids confidence. Here are 7 Useful Tips On How To Build Self Esteem In Your Child with key insights and practical tips to help you.

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Have you ever watched a child, with shoulders, hunched, downcast eyes, looking miserable and not interacting with the other children and you’ve thought – ‘I don’t want my child to ever be like that.’

Or maybe you’ve noticed a child who is so loud and over the top in her behaviour, that she doesn’t seem to take anybody else’s needs into consideration and you’ve thought – ‘I don’t want my child to ever be like that.’

In both of these situations it’s likely that the child’s awkward behaviour is about low self-esteem. Lack of confidence and over-confidence are both signs that a child’s self-esteem isn’t strong.

We think, ‘I don’t want my child to ever be like that,’ because we intuitively recognise the child isn’t sure of himself. We recognise that the child isn’t happy; these behaviours don’t help the child to build strong friendships or to gain the social skills that will help him navigate his way in life.

A healthy self-esteem is key to your child’s happiness and success, both now and in the future.

Self esteem is our rudder in life. A boat without a rudder drifts aimlessly. A small weak rudder won’t be adequate to help steer the course during stormy times. A strong, smooth and resilient rudder will guide the boat to its destination. What sort of rudder are you helping your child to build?


Key Elements of Self Esteem

‘But how?’ you may be asking. Here’s the good news. There are three key elements of self-esteem. When we know what these three keys are, we know what we can do as parents.

There’s one other thing we need to know. Self esteem and self-confidence are not the same thing. When a child has low self esteem, she might resort to over-the-top behaviours that look like confidence. But that’s just a mask. Real confidence is part of a strong, healthy sense of self – which comes from all three key areas of self esteem.

So here’s the first key that every wise parent needs to know about self esteem. Build your child’s competence. Build your child’s ability to do things for himself, because competence builds confidence. And it is this first key element that we will be discussing in this article.

But how to build a child’s competence? Ask yourself:

  • ‘What would my child benefit from being able to do for himself?’
  • ‘What does my child love to do? ‘

Helping to build your child’s competence in the practical life skills he needs and also the things he loves to do, are key to building his self esteem.

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7 Useful Tips on Building Self Esteem

#1. Let Them Do Jobs

Encourage your child to tackle age–appropriate tasks he can do for himself.

Young children love to help with tasks like unpacking the groceries. Your child is learning how to carry different products (including eggs!), how to sort and store, how to follow directions. Likewise, older children will enjoy the challenge of tasks that stretch their capabilities.

chores housework jobs kids

#2. Guide Them How to Respond If An Accident Happens

If an accident happens, (broken eggs!) calmly help your child with the clean up, and guide him to know how to do it differently next time.

It’s a key life lesson that we can clear up the mess and start again when things don’t go smoothly.

#3. Give your Child Plenty of Opportunity to Practise New Skills

She wants to learn to eat her own food, to learn to paint, to cut with scissors. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t always get it ‘right’. It’s in the doing that she develops the competence.

child at school

#4. Let Them Have The Odd Tumble

Take measures to ensure your child’s safety, and recognise that the odd little bump is part of the learning experience of childhood.

For example a toddler will sometimes tumble when he learns to run – that’s how he learns to run. Your job as parent is both to help him develop the competence to run, which will mean the occasional tumble, without risking a severe fall that could hurt him and damage his confidence.

#5. Let Them Try Something A Little Challenging, Even If They Might Fail

If your child tries to do a task and fails, rather than rushing to do it for him, gently encourage.

Competence comes from practice. (You want to always give an unspoken message, ‘You can do this.’)

#6. Break Tasks Up Into Bite-Size Lessons

When your child is learning to do something new, break the task into ‘bite-size’ chunks.

For example, he wants to cut his own sausage. Guide him to first push the fork into the sausage to hold it still and then to slide the knife along the prongs of the fork to cut through the sausage. Then lift the fork to put the cut piece into his mouth.

kids cooking chopping knife

#7. Avoid Over-The-Top Praise

Sometimes words intended as encouragement can be an interference rather than a help. Words like ‘You’re terrific!’, ‘That’s brilliant’ can cause anxiety rather than boost confidence. Your child is likely to prefer your quiet observation or calm words describing what the child is doing: ‘You’re drawing round and round with the yellow crayon.’ You’re cutting the sausage all by yourself.’

Read on to discover the other keys to building your child’s self-esteem 

* These three components of self esteem were introduced to me through the work of Danish author Jesper Juul. His book ‘Your Competent Child’ has been one of the most informing works on my understanding of what’s needed to create environments for children to thrive.

7 Useful Tips On How to Build Self Esteem in Your Child

Over to you! Have you any other tips that you find useful to help build self-esteem in your child? Let us know in the comments below.

Like this? Share it with your network!

Like this? Share it with your network!

Published On: July 7th, 2016 / Categories: For Parents / Last Updated: March 30th, 2021 / Tags: , /

About the Author: Val Mullally

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Val Mullally focuses on activating your inner wisdom in work, parenthood and life. She is an accredited Parenting Coach, Professional Reflective Practice Facilitator and founder of Koemba Parenting. She offers Parenting courses (both face-to-face and online), and is available as a workshop facilitator and a keynote speaker. Val is author of: 'BEHAVE - What to Do When Your Child Won’t’, ‘Stop Yelling – 9 Steps to Calmer, Happier Parenting’ ‘Baby and Toddler on Board – Mindful Parenting When a New Baby Joins the Family’ and ‘Ancient Wisdom for Business Success – How to Lead with Courage, Clarity and Confidence’ She is currently co-authoring ‘In Defence of the Naughty Child - Understanding Sensory Sensitivity’ and will be speaking on this topic at TEDx Wexford on 11 August 2022. Val spent many years in Southern Africa, where she worked as a teacher, principal and trainer in Education. She and her husband now live in the place her heart calls home, in their traditional Irish cottage in North County Cork, Ireland.

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