Building Self-Esteem in Children: Practical Strategies for Parents

self confident little girl being a leader towards a brighter future

Self-esteem is a powerful thing. It’s that inner voice that whispers (or shouts!), “I can do this!” It’s the feeling of confidence that helps kids bounce back from setbacks, try new things, and build strong relationships. As parents, teachers, caregivers, and anyone who works with children, we all play a crucial role in nurturing this vital aspect of their development.
So, how can we help children build healthy self-esteem? Here are some practical strategies you can use every day:

1. Be a Love and Acceptance Beacon

Imagine self-esteem as a beautiful flower. It needs fertile ground to grow – and that ground is unconditional love and acceptance. Let your child know they are loved for who they are, not what they achieve. Celebrate their quirks, listen patiently to their worries, and offer hugs freely. This strong foundation gives them the security to explore the world and develop their unique personalities.

Related Reading: How to Identify and Respond to Your Child’s Love Language

2. Focus on Effort and Progress, Not Just Perfection

We all know kids can be tough critics of themselves. Instead of showering them with praise only for perfect A’s or winning goals, celebrate their effort and progress. Did they spend extra time studying for a test? Acknowledge their hard work! Did they try a new sport and improve their dribbling skills? High-five that determination! This teaches them that success comes from putting in the effort, not just having innate talent.

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3. The Power of “Yet”: Embrace a Growth Mindset

Sometimes, kids get discouraged when they face challenges. Here’s where the magic word “yet” comes in. Instead of saying, “You’re not good at math,” try, “Math is tricky yet, but I know you can keep practicing and get better at it!” This fosters a growth mindset, where children believe their abilities can develop over time.

4. Let Them Spread Their Wings (Safely!)

Give your child opportunities to be independent and make choices (age-appropriate, of course!). Let them pick out their outfit, help with chores, or choose a book at the library. This sense of control builds confidence in their abilities and fosters a “can-do” attitude. Remember, it’s okay if they make mistakes – that’s part of learning and growing!

Related Reading: Developing Responsibility: Age-Appropriate Chores for Your Child

5. The Power of Positive Self-Talk: Model It, Encourage It

Kids are like little sponges, soaking up the way we talk about ourselves. So, be mindful of your self-talk! If you constantly criticize yourself, chances are your child will pick up on that negativity. Instead, model positive self-talk. When faced with a challenge, say things like, “This might be tough, but I’m going to give it my best shot!” Encourage your child to do the same.

6. Celebrate Their Strengths and Interests

Every child has unique talents and interests. Whether it’s drawing, playing soccer, or building amazing Lego creations, help them nurture those passions. Provide opportunities for them to explore their strengths and celebrate their achievements along the way. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and boosts their confidence.

7. Build a Squad: Foster Healthy Friendships

Strong friendships are like sunshine for a child’s self-esteem. Encourage positive social interactions and help them build healthy relationships with peers. Teach them empathy, kindness, and good communication skills. Feeling connected to others helps them feel valued and supported.

8. Be a Safe Space for Emotions

Let your child know that all emotions are valid. When they’re feeling frustrated, sad, or angry, create a safe space for them to express themselves. Listen patiently, validate their feelings, and help them develop healthy coping mechanisms. Bottling up emotions can damage self-esteem, so open communication is key.

Also Read: Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids: Tips for Parents

9. You Are Their Superhero, Not Their Critic

Remember, your role is to be your child’s cheerleader, not their critic. Focus on encouragement and positive reinforcement. When mistakes happen, use them as teachable moments instead of belittling them.

10. Self-Esteem is a Journey, Not a Destination

Building self-esteem is an ongoing process, with ups and downs along the way. Be patient, celebrate the small victories, and keep these strategies in mind. With your love, support, and guidance, you can help your child blossom into a confident and resilient individual.

Building self-esteem in children is a multi-faceted approach. It involves creating a loving and accepting environment, praising effort over achievement, fostering a growth mindset, offering age-appropriate choices, modeling positive self-talk, celebrating strengths and interests, encouraging healthy friendships, providing a safe space for emotions, offering encouragement and support, and recognizing that it’s a journey, not a destination.


  1. Nemours KidsHealth
  2. Raising Children Network
  3. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  4. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

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