Did you know that the development of self-esteem in children can start as young as babyhood?
Albeit, the development of self-esteem is slow and takes time but it starts when a child feels loved, safe, and accepted as a baby getting positive attention and care.
Throughout the toddler years, children start to develop a sense of independence and feel good about themselves when they can do something by themselves. Once they start to develop social skills and compare themselves to their peers, that’s when self-esteem issues can start.
So no matter how much encouragement and praise you give your child during their younger years, at some point their self-esteem may derail. However, it’s always possible to help build it back up and give your child the confidence they need to face the world!
How to Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem
1. Help Them Develop Independence
When it comes to how to build a child’s self-esteem, it’s important to focus on helping them become independent and competent in the world. This will give them the self-assurance they need to make decisions and take risks as they grow and develop.
While giving praise will certainly help your child feel better about themselves, you need to also foster their sense of independence by allowing them to try and fail.
This can all start with simple tasks like having your child fold laundry or tie their own shoes. As much as you want to jump in and help them, you need to step back a bit and let them try. Provide guidance and support them when they become frustrated.
2. Encourage Your Child to Push Themselves
Self-esteem is the byproduct of feeling secure and loved but we can’t praise our children into becoming competent and independent. When we over-praise them, we are actually lowering the bar and telling them that they don’t have to do any better than they already are.
Again, confidence and self-esteem are developed through trying, failing, and practicing. When you praise them for every little effort, you may encourage them to believe they are perfect or that they have to do things perfectly all of the time.
For instance, if your child cannot put on their own socks but you tell them that they are doing a fantastic job at putting on their socks, they will learn to distrust their own instincts. Instead, encourage the effort and cheer them on as they keep trying.
3. Let Your Child Take Risks
Okay, this is a hard one but at some point, you will have to take a step back and let your child take healthy risks. When it comes to building a child’s self-esteem, they have to take chances, make choices, and learn responsibility for those decisions.
You can’t help your child build self-esteem if you “rescue” them from failure.
You can explain consequences to your child until you’re blue in the face but they will not truly learn cause and effect unless they engage in some real-world application.
Of course, we’re talking about healthy risks here – risks that won’t lead to harm or damage. And it’s okay to be near your child to provide support and guidance.
4. Let Your Child Make Their Own Choices
Children feel more powerful when they get to make age-appropriate choices and letting them do so can help build your child’s self-esteem.
For instance, you can let them choose between two breakfast options or let them decide what they want to wear for the day. Older children can choose what chore they want to complete or decide when they want to do their homework.
This kind of ties in with risk-taking because it helps your child learn the consequences of their decisions but it gives them the power to make choices for themselves.
This is especially important when it comes to situations in which your child has no control, such as going to school and spending time with their other parents if you are separated.
When it comes to empowering your children, it’s a delicate balancing act. Ultimately, you want them to understand that there are things they can control and things they cannot. Helping them build their self-esteem will give them the tools to know the difference with confidence.
5. Get Your Child Involved in Chores
Chores are a great way for your children to demonstrate their confidence and feel like a valued member of the family.
In our household, chores aren’t part of a strict routine and I approach it more like, “I need your help tidying up.” This way, my daughter sees the chore as more of an opportunity to pitch in than something that has to be done.
Even at the toddler stage, you can have your little ones help with laundry, setting the table, and making beds.
Having your child do chores will also help them develop independence so that you know when they go out into the world, they will have the skills to handle adulthood.
6. Help Them Explore Their Interests
Building a child’s self-esteem has a lot to do with helping them understand what makes them unique and special. You can help boost your child’s confidence by taking an active interest in their hobbies and encouraging them to follow their interests through to completion.
For example, if your child loves video games, encourage them to finish levels or beat the game. I remember how proud I was the first time my daughter played a game from start to finish – and I let her know!
Getting them to stick with something from start to finish will help give them a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to see things through even if they don’t turn out the way they planned.
What Can I Do When My Child Struggles or Fails?
Of course, no strategies for building a child’s self-esteem are going to safeguard them from struggle or failure. Your little one isn’t going to ace every test, make every sports team, or get things right all of the time.
First of all, it’s important not to get too hung up on your child’s failures. It’s not the failure that will negatively affect your child’s self-esteem but it is a perfect opportunity to help build it by encouraging resiliency.
Let your child know that you love them even when they fail, struggle, or make not-so-great decisions. Avoid focusing on their performance and instead, praise them and their effort.
You can also help your child when they struggle or fail by having them take a step back in their skills and build confidence by doing something they know how to do.
For example, if your child is struggling to read, get them books a grade level below and let them feel good about reading what they can. Eventually, they will build the confidence to take on the harder reading level.
Lastly, praise can be a valuable tool for building a child’s self-esteem – when it is specific and earned. Your child’s effort should be the focus of praise and specific to the task they attempted to accomplish.
For instance, if your child tried out for the school play and didn’t get a part, avoid saying, “Good try.” Instead, you can say something like, “I love how you practiced your scene and got up on that stage to audition.”
Overall, your child will fail. It’s important to encourage the effort they made and find ways for them to succeed so they can make more attempts in life with confidence.
Child Self-Esteem Activities
Apart from giving your child unconditional love and support, there are child self-esteem activities you can do to help your little one build their sense of confidence:
- Create a Recipe: This activity will help your child learn from their mistakes and view them as learning opportunities instead of failures. Have your child invent their own recipe, write down the ingredients, and experiment with making their creation. If something goes wrong, have them modify the recipe and try again!
- STEM Experiments: To help your child develop problem-solving skills, dive into some STEM experiments that offer your child an open-ended challenge. You can try a sink-or-float activity in which your child gathers various (waterproof) household items to build a boat that can be tested in the bathtub.
- What I Love About You: Right down your child’s name on a piece of paper and have everyone in the family contribute a compliment about your child (staying away from physical compliments). This can be a great thing for your child to have if they are feeling down and need a little self-esteem boost!
Building a Child’s Self-Esteem
As you can see, there are many ways that you can help build your child’s self-esteem! To sum up, here are three things you should focus on:
- Making your child feel special by helping them discover their unique abilities, talents, and qualities, plus how to value their own strengths.
- Teaching your child how to set and work toward a goal so they can feel proud of their accomplishments.
- Encouraging your child to keep trying, face challenges, and take risks.
Building your child’s self-esteem can take time or it can come naturally – every situation is different! The important thing is that you make the effort and your child will reap the benefits.
How do you help your little one feel confident? Share your tips in the comments below!