Raising Your Child's Self-Esteem

The way that a child sees him- or herself depends on messages from others, especially parents. A child is not born with a self image. A self image is learned through experiences beginning from birth.

Self-esteem is how people think and feel about themselves. Children with high self-esteem tend to be more productive, adventuresome, and self-assured.

The following suggestions may help you raise your child's self-esteem.

  1. Be a role model.

    Your feelings of self-acceptance affect your child's feelings. Children identify strongly with parents. If you have high self-esteem, it helps the whole family to be more optimistic, confident, and better able to manage life's struggles.

  2. Keep your expectations realistic.

    Unreasonably high expectations have negative results. Your child's feelings of personal worth fall apart if they believe they must be perfect to be loved.

  3. Respect your child's unique qualities.

    Your child is unlike any other, and should be loved unconditionally for the person he or she is. It is unhealthy to compare your child with friends, siblings, or you as a child. Encourage independence and respect your child's right to fulfill personal potential.

  4. Praise effort, not just outcome.

    If your child does not make a team, or win a spelling bee, or play the lead in the school play, tell your child how proud you are of him or her for trying. While victories are certainly cause for celebration, less obvious achievements should be equally celebrated. Even though your child may not be "first" or "best" or "perfect" in a particular event or activity, praise him or her for improving or making an attempt in the first place. On the other hand, do not give empty compliments. Your child can tell if your comments are truthful and from the heart.

    Don't always try to protect or rescue your child. Let your child learn by trying, and by making mistakes. Take the time to answer questions and help your child think of other options. Teach your child to make decisions and how to know when they have made good decisions. When a child solves a problem, he gains confidence in himself and feels like a success. If you solve your child’s problems, you teach them to be dependent on you.

  5. Watch what you say.

    When correcting your child's behavior, focus on the behavior rather than blaming the child. For example, instead of saying "You're lazy!," say, "I'm concerned about your grade in science. What can be done to improve it?"

Written by Donna Warner Manczak, PhD, MPH.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-02-06
Last reviewed: 2009-11-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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