Self Esteem

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Self-esteem is the combination of feelings of capability with feelings of being loved. Helping our children develop healthy self-esteem is one of the most important things that parents can do for them. Most parents are aware that their child's feelings of self-worth are linked to social and academic success. The development of a positive self-concept or healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of children and teenagers.

When parents and teachers of young children talk about the need for good self-esteem, they usually mean that children should have "good feelings" about themselves. With young children, self-esteem refers to the extent to which they expect to be accepted and valued by the adults and peers who are important to them. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic. During their early years, young children's self-esteem is based largely on their perceptions of how the important adults in their lives judge them. The extent to which children believe they have the characteristics valued by the important adults and peers in their lives figures greatly in the development of self-esteem.

Here are some tips to help you build your child's self-esteem:

  • Let your child feel special and appreciated. Try to provide full attention to the child whenever he or she wants to talk/play with you.
  • Do not nag your child for his/her weaknesses, instead focus on the positives.
  • If your child wants your attention at a time when you are busy, do not ignore the child or yell at him. Instead, calmly explain why you cannot talk/play right now and tell your child when you will be free to spend time with him.
  • Praise your child for his little achievements. Praise even when he tries.
  • High self-esteem is associated with solid problem-solving skills. Don't worry if your child can't think of solutions immediately; you can help her reflect upon possible solutions.
  • A child may feel self-confident and accepted at home but not around the neighborhood or in a preschool class. Furthermore, as children interact with their peers or learn to function in school or some other place, they may feel accepted and liked one moment and feel different the next. You can help in these instances by reassuring your child that you support and accept him or her even while others do not.
  • Avoid comments that are judgmental and instead, frame them in more positive terms.
  • Show interest in each child's activities, projects, or problems.
  • Treat children respectfully, ask their views and opinions on certain matters, take their views and opinions seriously, and give them meaningful and realistic feedback.
  • It is important not to compare siblings and to highlight the strengths of all children in your family.
  • Remember that learning new skills takes time and practice. Children do not learn new skills all at once.
  • Give sincere affection. Let children know that they are loved and wanted.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,