As a parent, you are likely worried about your child’s milestones. You want to make sure they are developing strong motor skills, learning at the same pace as other kids, and getting ready to attend school. However, along with the tangible skills that kids need, there are also intangible features and characteristics that they must build, like self-esteem and self-worth. High self-esteem can help kids approach the world with confidence and guide their decision-making through all levels of school and adulthood. 

It’s never too early to build up the self-esteem of your child. Follow this guide to learn how. 

What Is Self-Esteem?

A mother kissing her daughter after a dance recital.

Image via Pixabay by 5540867

Self-esteem refers to how one person views their worth. It refers to their emotional state and determines how they interact with the world around them. Self-esteem is often confused with self-confidence, but self-confidence refers to one’s belief in their abilities. If your child is self-confident, they believe they can become the captain of the soccer team, ace all of their tests, and accomplish any task they face.

As a parent, conflating the two can be dangerous for your child’s mental state. For example, a child can have high self-esteem when they believe they are loved, smart, and creative. However, if their value is seemingly dependent on their ability to accomplish tasks (like winning a game or earning the best grades in the class), then their esteem could be weakened when they don’t achieve those goals.

How Can You Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem?

There are multiple factors that contribute to your child’s self-esteem. As a parent, you can’t control all of these aspects, but there are a few things you can do to help. Try out a few of these key tips to build your child’s self-esteem:

  1. Avoid overpraising your child. As a parent, you want to build up your kids to believe they can succeed. However, overpraising can actually lower the bar for them. Kids may try less because they expect you to reward them either way. Instead, encourage kids to try again when they fail and cheer them on until they succeed.
  2. Step back and let your child try. You may also want to help your kids with everything, but let your child try to accomplish the task or solve the problem on their own. You can be there to support them, but allowing them to try, fail, try again, and succeed can give them a sense of accomplishment while honing their problem-solving skills.
  3. Let kids make their own choices. Give your child opportunities to make age-appropriate choices, like what to wear or which vegetables to eat with dinner. They can become confident in their decision-making and learn what they like and don’t like.
  4. Teach them that it’s okay to fail. Failure is a part of life and something that many adults struggle with. Let your child try things on their own and fail from time to time. This might mean falling down while ice skating or missing the hole in mini-golf. Encourage them to try again or offer tips on how to succeed rather than jumping in and solving the problem for them.
  5. Make sure your child’s goals are in reach. You want your child to work toward goals that are challenging but not impossible. Consider helping them set goals that they’re able to achieve with the skills and resources they have. Then, assist them in creating new milestones to hit along the way.
  6. Teach by example. Show your child what it means to set goals, try new things, fail on occasion, and keep trying. Discuss with them how you set goals and the experiences — both good and bad — you’ve had in trying to reach them.

When it comes to building your child’s self-esteem, you need to establish a balance between praising and encouragement and between helping and watching. While it’s tempting to jump in and solve your child’s problems and tell them you love them, they can actually grow stronger by learning skills and lessons on their own.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem in Children

You may believe that your child naturally has high self-esteem. They might seem outgoing and confident in their behavior, making you think they have good mental health and a strong sense of self. However — like adults — children’s personalities don’t always correlate to their self-esteem. Below are a few warning signs that your child could have poor self-esteem.

  • They have difficulty prioritizing their own needs. They won’t speak up, alert you to a problem, or ask for something, which may result from thinking they’re not worth the help or not wanting to be a burden. 
  • They apologize profusely. Any time they make a mistake or have a problem, they apologize for it. They blame themselves when something goes wrong, even if it’s out of their control.
  • They don’t disagree with people, even if the other person is wrong. This may reflect a child’s lack of confidence in sharing their thoughts, opinions, or knowledge.
  • They stick close to friends and family members. Children may do this because they fear rejection.
  • They have problems making their own choices. If they lack self-esteem, they may not be confident in what they believe is the best decision.
  • They say negative words or phrases about themselves. They might call themselves stupid or berate themselves for failing. 

Just because your child exhibits one of these behaviors doesn’t necessarily mean they have low self-esteem. However, you may want to intervene and build your child up if you notice these traits. For example, you can encourage your child to speak up when they need something or to stop using negative words to describe themselves. You can nip these bad habits in the bud before they become serious issues. 

Self-esteem levels can change in kids throughout their lives. While your child might have high self-esteem now, it could start to drop as they get older. As a parent, this can be heartbreaking. The best thing you can do is to give them to skills to build themselves back up and focus on what makes your child amazing — not what they can or cannot do.

At Crème de la Crème, we strive to use the best ways to build up our students so they can become strong, healthy adults. Learn more about us to discover how we help kids develop traits like critical thinking as well as physical skills and knowledge.