Self-esteem in children

Children with high self-esteem grow into happy, productive well-adjusted adults. Parents want their children to have a high level of self-esteem, but often do not consciously focus on that aspect of development until the child walks, talks and interacts with his world.

Fostering positive feelings of self-worth begins while your child is still in the crib, and continues with specific, consistent reinforcement, in periodic increments, throughout his journey to adulthood.

Tips for developing self-esteem in children:

Begin early

When you reach into the crib to pick up your baby, smiling  will teach him that he is a pleasure and a treasure – his first experience of approval to promote self-esteem.

Instill confidence

When your child begins to walk and investigate his world, it is unwise to hover in an overprotective mode. If you do not display anxiety, and allow him to experiment with freedom, he will become confident, rather than anxious. He will grow in self-assurance; a key ingredient to fostering and increasing self-esteem.

Use positive reinforcement

If you use positive reinforcement when disciplining your child, you will be using a positive approach to teaching him limits. Praise him for good behavior. Distract or minimize criticism of negative behavior. Using positive reinforcement as a method of discipline encourages self-esteem.

Foster self-worth

Affirm the child’s importance in the family by assigning age-appropriate chores, and acknowledge his contributions. Squelch the urge to “do over” if his performance is not up to your standards. The bed might not be perfectly made, but the child’s self-esteem will be perfectly intact because of his accomplishment, increasing his self-esteem.

Practice good communication

Consistent communication is especially crucial once your child is out in the world and among his peers. He will be able to navigate most of his world on his own, but occasionally you may have to give guidance or assistance.  For example, if he is being bullied, ridiculed or shunned, a common occurrence on school playgrounds, you may want to have serious talks about how to avoid being bullied.

Really listen, when your child talks. What sounds like idle, incessant childish chatter will help you to gain clues about how to assist your child in learning how to confidently interact in his world.

Teach your child what it means to be a friend and, hopefully, he will use what he has learned as a guide in choosing good friends, which will add to his self-esteem.


Each time you praise your child for positive behavior, you are making a deposit into his self-esteem account. Be sure praise is sincere, and keep comments directly attached to his accomplishment. To say “you are the smartest boy in the world” is empty exaggeration, and the child knows it. To say, “I am so proud you received a A on your spelling test, I know how hard you worked” will do more for his self-esteem than you can measure.


Encourage the teenage child to do volunteer work and take on part time jobs. Interaction with the community in this manner will increase his sense of self-worth. At this point in his life, sit down with the child and explain what a resume is, and help him build a resume for himself. This will give him a concrete picture of his value and increase his confidence in himself. This will also help him to become goal-oriented.

Allow your teenage child to negotiate his own issues. Whether he is asking for a raise at his part-time job, disputing an incorrect paycheck or inquiring about an unexpected low grade in school, each time he stands up for himself, he increases his art of negotiation and also his self-esteem.

Consistently repeat age-appropriate versions of these parenting tips throughout the stages of your child’s life, simultaneously incorporating heavy doses of unconditional love and total acceptance.  

Your consistent, long-term efforts to instill self-esteem, will come to fruition when your child grows up and becomes a happy and productive adult, with a healthy sense of his own value and worth.