Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem


Self-esteem is a person's core belief about themself. A person's self-esteem is reflected in their actions, both in how as well as what they do. Although self-esteem varies from time to time, the pattern usually leans toward a healthy or unhealthy view of self. With healthy self-esteem, a person is more likely to succeed in life.

Although building self-esteem is a lifelong process, the foundation of self-esteem is established in childhood. That foundation can do much to help a child deal with difficult life issues as they are encountered.

Parents have the greatest influence on a child's belief about themself. Letting your child know that they belong, are doing well, and are contributing can help them develop healthy self-esteem.

Keep these things in mind as you raise your child.

  • Children sense that they belong by the way their parents talk to them and act toward them. Show and tell your child that you love and care for them.
  • Children learn about how well they are doing by how their parents react to their behavior. Offer praise to children when they show positive behavior, and provide them with correction when mistakes are made.
  • Children learn how to work with others by learning how to cooperate within a family. Give your child some age-appropriate household responsibilities.

Keeping a journal can help as you work to build your child's self-esteem. Each day for at least 3 weeks, write in your journal the specific ways you helped your child develop a sense of belonging, learning, and contributing. After 3 weeks, review your notes to see your child's progress and to find new ways to help your child.

How to help your child develop healthy self-esteem

Through belonging

Through contact with others, we know that we are loved and respected and that we belong. Use the following suggestions to help your child feel they belong within your family.

  • Show your love.

    Let your child know you love them for who they are, not for what they do. Make it a habit to show your love for your child in at least two ways each day.

  • Let your child know that they are special.

    List at least three of your child's good qualities and post them on your refrigerator. Add to these qualities from time to time. Celebrate your child's good qualities often.

  • Praise your child.

    Make positive comments about your child's behavior. Notice your child's strengths, even when they are misbehaving. When you focus on what you like, your child's behavior may improve.

  • Listen to your child.

    When your child shares something with you, give your child your undivided attention and listen carefully. Don't give advice unless asked for it or you feel your child's safety is involved. Don't ridicule or shame your child.

  • Have family times.

    Have regular times for the family to have fun together, such as playing board or card games. Try to have as many family meals together as possible. Don't discuss problems or concerns you have with your child during these times unless it is absolutely needed.

  • Encourage positive peer experiences.

    Look for activities with peers where your child can feel success and acceptance, such as participating in a sport or joining a club.

Through learning

Learning can help children develop healthy self-esteem. Although learning really takes place all the time, plan to create a learning opportunity for your child at least once a week.

  • Choose a learning activity.

    Choose an activity that is appropriate for your child's age and that builds on your child's strengths. Do not overstress the danger or difficulty involved in a task or activity. You might invite your child to help with one of your chores or hobbies. If you do, be sure that you are not feeling rushed during the activity. Let it be a fun time.

  • Let your child try.

    Even if your child has difficulty with a new task or skill, don't quickly take over and show your child how to do it. Be patient and let your child try.

  • Break up a complex task.

    Simple steps help a child see progress when learning a complex skill. Don't embarrass your child by asking them to do difficult tasks in front of other people.

  • Praise accomplishments.

    Even if the completed work does not meet your standard, find at least one positive thing to say.

  • Encourage practice.

    When your child is learning a new skill that takes practice, such as riding a bicycle, don't expect perfection the first time. Help your child to not give up on the first try. Encourage your child to practice and talk about their improvement with each practice time.

Through contributing

Contributing enhances our feelings of belonging, giving the basis for more learning and stronger self-esteem. Every day, use the following suggestions to help your child feel that they are contributing.

  • Set family rules.

    Family rules help children know that the family stands for something and gives them exposure to order and ritual. Have as few family rules as possible and enforce them consistently. Write down your family's rules and what will happen if those rules are broken.

  • Invite cooperation.

    Regular family meetings are a way to help children learn to cooperate. Family meetings are a place where family members discuss concerns and problems.

  • Expect accountability.

    You can help your child learn to be responsible by giving your child some household chores. Make sure the chores are good ones for your child's age. As your child grows, hold your child accountable for their choices and behavior and let your child experience natural or logical consequences.

  • Express appreciation.

    Let your child know you appreciate their help with tasks, even household chores.


Current as of: October 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.