9 Ways to Build Strong Self-Esteem in Your Child

How to instill self-confidence in school-age kids

self esteem - boy smiling and proud holding up picture
Parents can help children build a strong sense of self esteem. Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

A healthy sense of self-esteem is one of the most important foundations that can be developed in a child. It is one of the keys to a child's health and well-being as well as social, mental, behavioral, and emotional health, and will play a crucial role in how he handles setbacks, peer pressure, and other challenges in the road of life.

Self-esteem is basically how your child sees himself and thinks of himself, and his ability to do things.

It's also shaped by how much he feels loved, and how much support and encouragement--or criticism--he receives from important people in his life, like his parents.

Here are some small but significant ways that parents can make a big difference in building a healthy sense of self-esteem in their child:

  1. Show your child love every day. Knowing how much you love her gives your child a sense of security and belonging that is crucial to her view of herself. As she grows, she will continue to build her social circle, by making good friends, feeling a sense of belonging at a church or synagogue or another place of worship, forming bonds with teammates on a sports team, and more. Your love will lay the groundwork for the healthy and strong relationships she will form later in her life. So hug your child when you say goodbye and hello, snuggle together and read a book, and show her you love her in many ways, every single day.
  1. Play with your child and have fun. When you play with your child, it shows him that you like spending time with him and value his company. Just having fun with your child has numerous benefits: Not only does your child develop confidence in his ability to be an interesting and entertaining person who can form solid social bonds, but studies have shown a child's odds of being happy increases and his risk of depression and anxiety decreases when parents play with them.
  1. Give your child responsibilities and chores. Being responsible for doing age-appropriate chores gives your child a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Even if she doesn't do something perfectly, let her know that you appreciate her efforts, praise her for all the things she does well, and reassure her that over time, she'll get better and better at many things, including her chores.
  2. Let your child be independent. The elementary-school years is a time of fast-growing independence in kids. By the time they reach the middle-school years, many children are starting to spend time alone at home, walking to school by themselves, and helping younger siblings. It's important that parents allow kids to grow increasingly more independent, letting them figure out how to talk to teachers about any problems on their own, organizing homework assignments, making sure they're soccer uniforms are packed and ready, and so on. So-called "helicopter parenting" undermines kids' abilities to do things on their own and to build good self-esteem.
  1. Teach your child to see setbacks and failures as chances to learn. Emphasize the fact that being human means making mistakes and not being perfect. Teach her to see that setbacks are what teaches us so that we can continue to try to improve.
  2. Never insult or belittle your child. When your child does something that drives you crazy or misbehaves, be sure to separate the behavior from your child. You're human--when your child pushes your buttons you'll probably be irritated or even angry. Talk to your child with respect. Don't yell [link], take emotion out when you discipline your child (a good way to do this is by using natural and logical consequences[link]), and speak to your child in a pleasant and friendly tone.
  3. Get off the phone. We are constantly connected these days, thanks to mobile devices that let us text and post to social media and check email all day, every day. Research shows that more kids are noticing that their parents are not paying attention to them. It doesn't feel good to be constantly ignored when you're with someone--when you are spending one-on-one time with your child, put down the phone and don't make the mistake of phubbing, or phone snubbing, your child.
  4. Understand that self-esteem does not mean arrogance or narcissism or feeling entitled. Being self-confident does not mean thinking that the world revolves around you or that your needs are more important than those of other people. Balance out a healthy self esteem with other important life skills kids need such as having empathy, being kind, having good manners, being charitable, and having a sense of gratitude.
  5. Let him create and show off his work. Work on fun crafts for kids with your child and display them around the house. When he brings home his artwork, writing, and other projects from school, ask him to tell you all about how he made it, what he wants people who see his work to think or feel (the way an artist might when talking about his work), and what he loves best about his creation. Giving your child a chance to show off the things he makes or to talk about the things he made lets him feel like his creations are worthy of attention, and that his opinion and thoughts matter.

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