Insights » Building Healthy Self-Esteem

Building Healthy Self-Esteem

Childhood can be a very vulnerable time for all individuals. How children are taught to cope with failures, negative influence or setbacks can shape them as adults. The example set by parents is a huge model for behaviour. This month we look into habits that we believe, help improve self-esteem in children.


Many people seem to believe self-confidence and self-esteem are interchangeable, yet they don’t always go hand in hand. Self-confidence can be defined as trust in oneself or one’s abilities; self-esteem can be seen more as the emotional and mental ability to cope with life’s inevitable setbacks. 


For example, an adult with self-confidence might have degrees, accolades and other more superficial measures of success- but might rely on ‘externals’ like high status, or things like alcohol to cope with the different setbacks they may face. An individual with healthy self-esteem treats themselves, their family and their community with respect. They don’t allow their obstacles damage them.




Raising a person with these qualities is a huge responsibility- especially when many of us face these challenges ourselves. Self-talk is something we all do, but not necessarily out loud. It’s essentially our inner voice. Teaching your children how to ‘talk to themselves’ can change a lot about how they feel about themselves. 


Ways to encourage positive self-talk include:


Modeling it yourself- try to replace the negative things you say about yourself with positive ones.

Pointing out their good actions, and not just their bad behavior. Children respond to praise as much as scolding.

Instead of just praising your child, ask them questions about their good action or difficult task. They will have to think about how they were able to do something.

Teach your child to recognize negative self-talk, things that begin with “I can’t”, “I never” or “I always”. Make sure they know that certain phrases limit them. Instead teach them to say ‘I will’, or ‘I will try’, or ‘I want to’.

Certain key phrases are good to learn for when things are hard, like “I know today was hard but I can try again tomorrow”, or “Tomorrow I will work on doing that better”


Give your child responsibility


People want to feel needed and children are no different. By giving your child responsibilities in the home, even small ones, they will develop confidence in knowing they are able to do a job and do it well. They will learn feel the validation that comes from helping you or your partner, and know that they are able to do a task on their own. 


These can be chores or assisting you with tasks, but find an age appropriate responsibility you think they may be good at, like taking the plates into the kitchen or helping a younger sibling with their homework.


Create attainable goals


Independence can be encouraged through helping your child understand setting attainable goals. The feeling of accomplishment they get from improving themselves, a project or their abilities can really help build self-esteem.


This might be a nightly checklist, reading a challenging book or an arts and craft project like cross-stitch or a model house. Praise them for setting their goals and sticking to completing them because it’s a life-long skill.

Developing self-trust


As parents, usually the first instinct is to help your child with their problem. As children, usually the first instinct is to get a parent’s help. It’s only natural. It’s still important to help children through life, but just as important to teach them how to think about their problems. Listen to what they have to say, and encourage them to use their own judgment. Instead of jumping to the rescue, ask them questions like ‘what do you believe you should do?’, and encourage them to work through the problem with you. A child that has faith in their own judgment is more likely to grow into a self-confident adult


Celebrating diversity without comparing


It’s so easy to compare oneself to others, but it is such a detrimental habit to our own self-esteem. Just as comparing your child with other children impacts very negatively on their self-esteem. The balance is teaching them that there is uniqueness in all people, and learning to love that uniqueness allows us to see our own good traits. Make notes of others special traits and celebrate them, rather than telling your child to be more like someone else. Tell them the things that make them different, in the same fashion and teach them to recognize their own strengths and individuality.


Most of all, try your best with everything you do. You are a child of the universe yourself. Set a positive example for your family by recognizing your own efforts as a person.




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