Self-esteem is how much people value themselves and how important they believe they are in their world. You might hear people talk about the importance of self-esteem in kids, and “positive self-esteem” in particular. But what exactly is it? And why does it matter so much? Simply put, positive self-esteem is when people feel good about themselves.

Why positive self-esteem is important for kids

Kids with positive self-esteem feel confident and capable. They value themselves and their abilities. They’re proud of the things they can do and want to try their best.

When kids are confident and secure about who they are, they’re more likely to have a growth mindset. That means they can motivate themselves to take on new challenges and cope with and learn from mistakes. They’re also more likely to stand up for themselves and ask for help when they need it.

When kids have positive self-esteem they:

  • Feel respected
  • Are resilient and feel proud even when they make a mistake
  • Have a sense of control over activities and events in their life
  • Act independently
  • Take responsibility for their actions
  • Are comfortable and secure in forming relationships
  • Have the courage to make good decisions, even in the face of peer pressure

Kids who have negative self-esteem may also:

  • Feel frustrated, angry, anxious, or sad
  • Lose interest in learning
  • Have a hard time making and keeping friends
  • Be more likely to be teased or bullied
  • Become withdrawn or give in to peer pressure
  • Develop self-defeating ways to deal with challenges, like quitting, avoidance, silliness, and denial
To help build your child’s positive self-image as he grows, consider these dos and don’ts.
  •  Do give children choices. Giving children choices — within a reasonable set of options preselected by you — makes them feel empowered. For example, at breakfast, you might offer your child the option of eggs or pancakes. Learning to make simple choices while he’s young will help prepare your child for the more difficult choices he’ll face as he grows.
  • Don’t do everything for her. Be patient and let her work things out for herself. For example, it may be faster and easier to dress your preschooler, but letting her do it herself helps her learn new skills. The more she meets new challenges, the more competent and confident she’ll feel.
  • Do let him know no one is perfect. And explain that no one expects him to be. The way you react to your child’s mistakes and disappointments colours the way he will react.
  • Don’t gush or offer insincere praise. Kids are masters at detecting insincere praise or baseless compliments. Praise your child often, but be specific in your compliments so your words don’t ring hollow. For instance, instead of reacting to your child’s latest drawing with, “Wow, that’s great. You’re the best artist in the world,” try something like, “I really like how you drew the whole family. You even included details like Daddy’s beard.”
  • Do assign age-appropriate household chores. Give children responsibility for tasks such as setting the table, walking the dog, and folding laundry. They’ll increase their feelings of competency and bolster their problem-solving skills.
  • Don’t draw comparisons between your children. Instead, appreciate each one’s individuality and special gifts.
  • Don’t call children names or use sarcasm to make a point. Never belittle your child’s feelings. When you get angry take a short break so you don’t say anything you’ll regret. And keep in mind; you can dislike a child’s actions without disliking the child. Be sure to illustrate the difference to your child.
  • Do spend one-on-one time with your child. Whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat or taking a bike ride, try to schedule some alone time with your child at least once a week. This is a great opportunity to talk about what’s on her mind and to cement the bond the two of you share.

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