How To Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Putting Your SELF in the Development of Self-Esteem
By Dyan Eybergen, RN © 2009

confident boy

Self-esteem is not something children are born with.

Its development begins during infancy and is primarily based on the interactions children have with their parents and that those interactions are positive in nature.

The development of children’s self-esteem unfolds with the perceptions of those closest to them and then expands, as they get older, to outside the nuclear family. Children will internalize the feelings and experiences they encounter through these relationships and incorporate them into a definition of who they are. When they experience affirmative relationships, children will build confidence in their own merit as individual people.

confident girl

It is imperative then, that parents, being the first point of relationship contact for a child, set the groundwork for the development of a healthy self-esteem. Parents can facilitate this process by exhibiting 4 basic behaviours to their children on a consistent basis. These SELF parenting behaviours are as follows:

Support: Parents provide a safe haven for children where they come to express their dreams and aspirations, their fears and their failures and know that their parents will listen. It is a place of retreat when things go wrong. Children will know that their parents “place” offers a supportive framework that they can lean on, gather strength and be encouraged to carry on.

Empower: As children grow parents bestow onto them more and more autonomy and authorize a sense of independence. From learning to tie their own shoes to driving a car, parents instil confidence in their children to try new things and tackle chores and problems on their own. Parents recognize their children’s strengths and highlight them so children begin to use their strengths to make decisions and choose career paths that are right for them.

Love that is unconditional: Parents continue to demonstrate and communicate their adoration for their children, no matter what their children have done. Parents see their child’s misbehaviour as opportunities for their child to learn and grow. Parents help misbehaved children learn from their mistakes, guide them to make amends for their wrong doing and help them to choose appropriate behaviours the next time.

Faith in the child’s capabilities: Parents trust that their children will learn right from wrong. As their children grow, parents give them opportunities to exercise problem solving and negotiation skills. Parents set their children up for success based on individual character strengths and allow their children to make mistakes and learn from them. Parents communicate trust and belief in their children’s ability to succeed, right from learning to feed independently, to taking their first steps, to going off to University.

Through a consistent showing of the SELF parenting behaviours, children get positive reinforcement of specific self-esteem attributes. Children who receive support are Strengthened; those who are empowered, feel Encouraged; children who know unconditional love learn to Love themselves and when children know that their parents have faith in them, they are Fulfilled as a human beings.

Dyan Eybergen is the author of Out of the Mouths of Babes: Parenting from a Child’s Perspective. Dyan is a paediatric psychiatric nurse, has more than ten years experience working as a therapist and parent educator. Dyan and her family were guests on the cable television show “For Kids Sake”, along with parenting expert Barbara Coloroso. Eybergen resides in St. Albert, Alberta, with her husband and three sons.



  1. Hey Ellen, love your video, even though you don’t know me, I feel like you are my very supportive friend. I appreciate your emails and will post this on my nightstand.

    Joanna, Mom of Kyle 10, Taylor 7, and Mila 4.

  2. Thank you- very inspiration!

    Sandra, NM

  3. Good info, I’ve passed this onto my wife and sister.

  4. I didnt get video – just blank at top of page???? what have done wrong?

  5. Ellen and Dyan- thanks, I needed this today.

    Afraid- I copied the direct youtube code for you, does this help?

  6. I agree completely with the S-E-L-F process of encouraging the development of self-esteem in children! And, I would add that somewhere along the line the child must ‘DO’ something – do it well enough that he/she can internalize those “I’m OK notions!” My daughter Katie had all of the SELF things – her mother and I put her into gymnastics and until she could perform the skills to her own level of satisfaction, she still lacked the confidence to demonstrate that she was OK with her self. Once she could perform the skills required, she started to grow in those Self-worth areas and has continued throughout high school, college, marriage and into her chosen profession, nursing. My suggestion would be that the S-E-L-F Processes need to be accompanied by DOING SOMETHING well!

  7. Yes – what parent doesn’t naturally strive to do all of these things for their children. We as parents love our children. It is the reality of actually doing these “SELF” tasks all the time at every moment of every day…Real mom!

  8. I agree very much with Jim in that when a child is very young the affirmation of the parent is the essence of the childs world but soon enough they themselves have to “believe” and being able to DO something well is very key….As a mother of a LD child who also struggled with many physical/co-ordinated tasks this was very challenging….and being able to DO something well enough that he recognized it as valuable and well enough for his peers to affirm him was paramount even by grade 1 to 2….Finding something HE valued which he could also “master” was a challenge and sometimes a heartbreaking process for us….but with perserverence we found 1 thing first….bowling which eventually led to him taking the “chance” of trying new things..some with success, and some not….but with us there for him through it all…eventually he knew it wasn’t just MOM saying nice things cause as he said once..”Mom it doesn’t count when you say it cause you’re my mom and everybody’s mom thinks they’re great” but once he could accomplish something well enough to gain recognition from the peers he could also accept that the hockey guys could clean up on the rink but that he could clean up in the alley. FIND THAT FIRST THING THAT THEY CAN UNREFUTTEDLY DO WELL….and they’ll know they ROCK YOUR WORLD>

    • Thanks so much. I have a son who has low self esteem, and learning disabilities which go hand in hand. I am constantly supporting and loving him, telling him what a wonderful human being he is.

  9. Fernando (Parent Educator) says:

    Dear Ellen, could you please re-send me the SELF article. For some reason, the words printed over each other and I couldn’t read it. Thanks.

  10. Mine was also jumbled up. I just copied (Ctrl C – Ctrl V)it into word and it showed up fine.
    Thank you I needed to read this today!