Building self-esteem and confidence in young children is one of the most powerful things we can do for the coming generations.
Positive self-esteem in children leads to emotional well-being, improved decision-making skills, and valuable social skills long into adulthood. Many of these skills not only improve the general experience of life for the child but also significantly improve the chances of leading a successful life, as well.
Yet developing self-esteem in young children seems to elude many of us as we struggle to understand what exactly leads to a healthy self-esteem.
Not only that, but developing high self-esteem in your child is made easier with a healthy self-esteem in yourself, making the task all the more challenging.
Because parents who feel good can more easily help their children feel good too.
Not to worry, though.
There are countless ways to build self-esteem in both you and your child, each of them being easy to incorporate into your daily life.
In this post, I'll break down what it takes to boost self-esteem in young children, how personalized children's books can help, and actionable steps that you can take to help.
Why Self Esteem in Children Matters
Self-esteem is about so much more than feeling good about yourself.
It is about the belief that you are capable and competent enough to go about the world and tackle difficult tasks. In the event that you are neither capable or competent--like, say, in flag football--then you are secure enough in yourself to know that it doesn't change your worth as a person.
The clinical term most often used to describe this is 'self-efficacy'. Self-efficacy is a person's realistic belief that he or she has the ability to accomplish certain tasks.
If a child, for instance, has a general belief that he can do something, then he will go about it confidently and happily.
Developing self-efficacy is key to having high self-esteem in children as it helps build enough confidence for the child to go out and explore the world.
When a child feels confident enough to try new tasks, an entire world of opportunity opens up to him.
The more that the child explores, the more that the child learns that he is capable of trying and learning new things. This confidence is essential as the child grows into adulthood and is what will help him develop meaningful relationships, pursue professional goals, and eventually raise a healthy and love-filled family of his own.
It all begins with building self-esteem at a young age.
Kids with healthy self-esteem
- feel worthwhile and accepted just as they are
- feel that they are capable of trying and learning new things
- feel proud of themselves for trying
- have a positive self-image that is realistic
- are not scared away by challenging tasks or emotions
On the opposite end, kids with poor self-esteem generally
- feel incompetent in any given task
- are hard on themselves and hold themselves to unrealistic standards
- feel as if they are not as good as the other kids
- focus on their negative qualities and experiences
- don't have the confidence to explore new things
- doubt that they are capable of accomplishing new goals
As a child develops self-esteem, whether positive or negative, these tendencies follow them into adulthood.
In fact, you may have noticed that these things could be said about adults, as well.
In the case of positive self-esteem, imagine a world in which you are unafraid of trying new things, even if they are challenging or scary.
Then, imagine a world in which a young child freely explores new things, such as new friends, new school assignments, or new hobbies. As the child tackles new challenges, he or she naturally and happily progresses through them.
Self-efficacy is what lays the foundation for high self-esteem and confidence for the rest of the child's life.
How to Build a Child’s Self Esteem
If you'd like to increase self-esteem in your child, then there are a few things that you can begin doing right now.
It takes a lot of time, patience, and dedication but it is well worth it in the long-run.
If you ever find yourself struggling with it, go easy on yourself. You won't always have positive feelings toward the task and it won't always be easy. But that's alright.
The important thing is that you demonstrate to your child that she is totally deserving of the effort. You might just raise self-esteem in yourself while you're at it.
1. Develop Positive Self-Esteem in Yourself
The very first step to help a child develop a positive self-concept is to improve self-esteem in the parent. As much as we'd like to think that our caring words and support will be enough to boost self-confidence in young minds, the fact is that they learn more from our behavior as adults.
If your child sees that you lack the confidence to try new things, don't practice forgiveness on yourself, show fear in challenging situations, and practice a lot of negative self-talk, then the child will learn to do the same.
As you work to build the self-esteem and confidence in your child, also work to solve your own self-esteem issues. The process of improving self-esteem in yourself will be incredibly valuable to your child as she is able to see that you practice what you preach.
It will also teach the child that low self-esteem is natural and that there is no shame in working to gain self-esteem even as an adult.
We are teachers both in what we say and in what we do, so be sure to do what you say.
2. Give Them Autonomy
The best way to give a child confidence is to give him new situations to master. By trying new things and learning how to exist in the world independent of their parents, children can build self-confidence naturally and happily.
As the child explores new tasks and challenges he will learn that he is quite capable of mastering them. Or, if not, he will learn where his abilities lie and how to work with them.
If you have a toddler in the home, let her dress herself or help with small chores. Giving her a little bit of freedom to try important tasks is essential to developing positive feelings about her abilities.
The same can be said for any age range, really. Wherever there is an opportunity to safely offer a little bit of freedom to the child, allow it.
3. Don’t Praise Too Much — It Can Cause More Harm Than Good
Understandably, a lot of parents who want to build self-confidence in their children offer a lot of praises. They will cheer them on during their activities, offering praises like "good job" and "you're the best" in hopes of developing self-esteem through praise.
This, however, does the exact opposite.
When parents praise their children with blanket statements like that, they offer no real guidance for their children in terms of developing a sense of self.
Rather than offering generic praises, it is best to clearly identify the skill or quality that the child is exhibiting.
Statements such as "you are so creative" or "I like the way that you solved that problem" are more validating for the child and will help encourage problem-solving skills and mental health as the young mind is developing.
The development of self-esteem in young children has a lot more to do with identifiable traits than generic positivity.
4. Give Them Responsibilities
One of the more important growth opportunities during the young developmental years comes with small household responsibilities. Small and manageable tasks can help foster emotional development as a young child begins to explore his own sense of self and his own abilities.
One of the easiest ways to help foster this growth is by giving your child responsibilities. This could range from getting dressed in the morning to setting the table for dinner in the evening. Small, manageable tasks such as these give the child an opportunity to feel like an important member of the family.
It also allows them to test limits, push boundaries, and discover what they are capable of.
While it may seem like an insignificant event to get dressed in the morning, that amount of freedom at a young age demonstrates that not only is the child given the freedom and safety to explore new roles, but he is also totally capable of doing so.
5. Children’s Books That Help Build Self-Esteem
Understanding how important the development of self-esteem at a young age is, it only makes sense that you'd want to support the process as much as possible.
Children's books can help with that.
Children's books on self-esteem can help guide both you and your child as you learn how to develop a positive self-image.
A captivating story can help children learn how to recognize and manage feelings in ways that would be otherwise difficult for them. The characters in the story can demonstrate what it's like to curiously explore the world with confidence and compassion, which is helpful when building self-esteem in children.
A few children's books to help parents who would like to build self-esteem in their children are:
If you want to build your child’s self-esteem, then give her the opportunity to develop her own sense of self naturally. It may take a little extra effort but the benefits are certainly worthwhile. If you put in the work now, it will be a lot less work in the years to come.