How to Build self Esteem in Children

Some children seem to be full of self-esteem, but then a change to their routine can make them see themselves in a different light. Other children are naturally shy, struggle to make friends and are generally low in self-confidence. As they grow older, they may well throw this off. Fortunately, you don’t have to sit back and wait for nature to take its course; you can help by doing a number of things.

Help them socialize

Sometimes low self-esteem comes from socializing with children who tease and even bully them. For example, older siblings can often be jealous of the attention younger children get and so try to ‘bring them down a peg or two.’ In some cases, a confident child may realise that he is educationally not up to the standards of his classmates and lose a lot of self-esteem in the process. You can help by making sure they are introduced to a wide range of children, not just from school and the immediate neighbourhood, but further afield too. Hopefully, finding like-minded friends will help them build up their self-esteem levels.

Encourage interests

Children with low self-esteem may withdraw into themselves if you are not careful. They may make a conscious decision to avoid social occasions wherever possible and may not want to do much in the way of extracurricular activities. You may hate having to force them to go, but if you target their interests rather than force them to do an activity they hate, you will at least be exposing them to other children. Of course, if your child really struggles with the activity you choose for them, it is probably best to stop forcing them; encouraging them to do something out of their comfort zone can be even more damaging to self-esteem.

Praise them as much as possible

When children are shy and awkward in company, you may well find it embarrassing. You may get sick of them clinging on to your sleeve all the time when you want them to go off and play. However, try not to lose your temper with them. They may well be very aware that they don’t fit in with the other children and if you criticize them for it, they are likely to lose even more self-esteem. Instead, pick on the positives. For example, if they eat their lunch, or help a younger child, praise them as much as possible. In addition, be careful not to criticize them. Whether meant as a joke or not, criticism can have a huge impact on a child’s self-esteem.  

Avoid over-praising other children in front of them

Some parents tend to over-praise other children in front of their child with low self-esteem. The intention is probably to encourage the shyer child to participate and fit in with everyone else. However, children with low self-esteem often seem rude and difficult when in company because they are aware that they feel different. By drawing attention to how well other children do things, you will just make them feel worse. By all means praise other children, but not to the extent that you are singling out a child with low self-esteem by not praising them.

Get to the root of the problem

Children with low self-esteem often feel like they are a one-off. In truth, everyone is different. In order to truly build self-esteem in children, you may need to find out what the root of the problem is. See if you can pinpoint the time that you first noticed problems with low self-esteem. It could be to do with starting or changing school, a divorce or a death. It can be difficult, especially if your child is older, but you really need to encourage them to talk to you about the problem. It could be something relatively simple that you can immediately deal with, or it may be something that you need to work through. Either way, you can’t do anything until you know what you are dealing with.

Show them that you love them

Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to build self-esteem in children, showing them that you love them is sadly often neglected. Saying ‘I love you’ on a regular basis is good, but anyone can say those words. You need to show your children that you love them, even if you think that you already do. Cook their favourite foods and take them to do their favourite things as often as you can. If they know that they are loved despite their perceived flaws, it should help them to feel much better about themselves. After all, everyone has flaws and it is worth pointing that out occasionally.

Most children have low self-esteem at times, but for some children, it is the beginning of a life-long struggle. Do what you can to address their issues while they are still young. You can’t change their entire psyche, but you can help them look at life in a more positive way.