Five Tips to Kick Start Your Child’s Self Esteem

If there is one attribute that can change the outcome of a child’s life, I would have to define that as self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can take a youngster to unsavory relationships and achievement far below his or her potential, while a healthy level of confidence will guide a child to shine in so many aspects of life.

Several ideas are presented here, that you can use as a template for a curriculum to aid your child in developing his self-esteem. With that in mind, view the following suggestions as you would look at a spread of food in a cafeteria: take what appeals to you and leave the rest behind for consideration at another time.

1) Accepting Myself: My family, my strengths and weaknesses, my unique situation… My talents and my failings all serve to make me the special person that I am. Nobody is without flaws or regrets; what I do with my capabilities from now on is what is important.

2) Decision-Making: Children need guidance in making their own decisions and handling the consequences of both the good and bad decisions that have been made. It is important for them to understand instant-gratification versus long-range benefits in the bigger picture. The ability to delay immediate gain for a future yield is a sign of maturity that will boost a youngster’s self-esteem tremendously.

3) The need for help: Children can’t find all the answers on their own. A parent, teacher, grandparent, or neighbor can be an instrumental mentor to aid a child’s development in a myriad of ways. Asking for help is a a healthy sign of desire for growth, not a weakness.

4) Goal-Setting: The ability to establish and meet reasonable goals that are challenging yet achievable will be a superb springboard to longer-term aspirations. Successfully meeting a challenge encourages a person to take on further projects and strive beyond what he has already done.

5) Time-Management Skills: Despite the many time-saving appliances that fill our homes, we are busier than ever before! Learning to realistically prioritize tasks and projects is a skill that will keep overwhelming feelings at bay and serve your children well for years to come.

Use this list as a springboard for other ideas that come to mind as you broach these subjects with your child. A two-year-old will learn delayed gratification by being rewarded after the blocks have been cleaned, while a teenager will internalize the same lesson by shoveling snow to earn her new ipod. The lessons are timeless life-skills that will enable your child to handle the complicated time of growing up more effectively.

For further reading regarding your son or daughter’s self esteem, I recommend “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” if you are a parent of a son, and “Reviving Ophelia: Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” if you are a parent of a girl.


  1. There are five very different ideas here, so I’m going to focus on one (by printing it out and posting on the refrigerator) at a time.

    This week we’ll focus on idea #1- that each individual is unique. Our nearly 7-year-old and 8-year-old have such extraordinarily different strengths and gifts that it’s unbelievable that they are brothers!! I’m going to focus on praising them for their talents, not comparing one to the other, and demonstrating how I, too, have strengths and weaknesses.

    I’ll be sure to keep you posted:)

  2. I can’t wait to hear the comments on this one.

    Please do comment on the other ones in weeks to come.

    One thing I have found to bolster self-esteem, is to find something the child/teen is interested in, and study it with them.

    My husband and I take ballroom dancing with our 16yos, 14yos, and 8yos. I take tae kwon do with my 14yos, 8yos and 6yos. Dad would, but he cannot because of his knee surgery.

    I think them having a talent is important. I do have a very moody 6yos. He gets depressed easily, when he is tired or his blood sugar is low. I am working on how to help him love himself more. He is such a darling child, with a love for art and drawing.

    I am really looking forward to the posts on this one.


  3. Kathryn says:

    My son is older now, but this was good to reflect on how I started this VERY early. With any of these ideas I had to detail, every step & process to get it across, my son has Aspergers and life was full of not just words, but crossing from tangleable to abstract in a world of black & white gray is hard to teach. Plus, with each point there is a crossing to others when it is really being covered. ie.
    When you tell a child, clean your room. OK. You come in and ask if the room is clean YEP, they threw the comforter over the bed. GRRR. But, if you say we need to make sure your room gets clean today. I want to go over that with you – 3×5 card & pencil. What do YOU see needs doing? I don’t know. Well… How about your trash can? Yea, Ok I will put trash on the card, Oh what are these, oh they are clean I didn’t put them away yet or those are dirty – so… I need to sepreate them & put in laundry room. I try to keep it down to about 5-10 items, then offer hey when they are all done call me in to see the great job, OK? Then lets watch something together. As a young child, I would take his socks and underwear in & we would fold together, when he took over I thought they would be thrown in a drawer, but he has maintained the things taught.

  4. Gidon Ariel says:

    Ellen, your topics are always irresistible!

    I would suggest that you recommend books by Dr. Self Esteem himself, Abraham Twerski.

    Thanks and God Bless,
    Gidon Ariel
    Co-Founder, The Holy City Prayer Society

  5. How can I get permission to use the article as a parent workshop teaching tool?

  6. I love these tips and have tried to use them raising my son with Asperger Syndrome. Self esteem is a big issue when kids start picking on them. I love the one on the need for help because it is one I have struggled with all my life because I should be able to do it on my own if I am an independent person. However, when in school, and when learning something new it does not make much sense not to ask for help.

    My son was always scared of looking stupid because he is not. He did not want others to make fun of him anymore than they already did and the easiest way to do that is not to call attention to yourself. We worked on this for five or six years. When he got into high school he was really struggling. I did call a couple of teachers at home and make him talk to them about his homework because I could not help him. I told him that if he and the other kids did not ask questions in class, that teacher was just collecting a paycheck and not earning it. I pay my taxes and I expect the teachers to teach and earn their paychecks. He started asking questions and unintentionally became a leader in class because a lot of the other students had the same questions. All his teachers comment now on how well he participates in class. The first time one of them told me he was a leader in the classroom, I about fell out of my chair. What a wonderfull thing to happen.

  7. Christine says:

    First, I’d like to thank Ellen for the article. I’m going to brainstorm ideas to help each of my learning challenged kids.

    What wonerful and encouraging comments. Thank you Kathryn and Laurie for sharing your experiences. I wish I had had this info sooner.

    When my oldest was about 6 or 7, he had tremendous difficulty learning to read at school. He would always say “I can’t.” for just about anything. I came up with the idea of making an “ICAN” wall. I would point out all the things he could do, write them on a piece of rectangular paper and we’d stick it to his bedroom wall over his bed. Feel free to use it in your reporatoire of ideas to help your kids realize their potential.

  8. Hadassah says:

    I find that writing down positive actions taken by kids, either as notes or in a notebook, and reading them aloud, either to the family or just to the child builds a feeling of accomplishment that leads to self-esteem. We start it in our preschool classes and call them Mitzva notes. It forces the parent to focus on and say something positive about their child, and when read in front of the class strengthens the child’s self image.

  9. We used to do a “Tattle-tale Jar” that we would read each week. It was a cookie jar on the counter, and we would write down things the children did each week We encouraged the children to do this as well for each other and for us. On our family day, they would be drawn out of the jar and read. The kids would glow. I think we should do that again.

    What is aspergers, and how can I find info about it?

  10. I’m finding this to be more of a problem with my daughter who is six and an only child. Sometimes when she does something that she feels is not good enough she has a mini melt down. I mean it can be something as simple as trying to fold a piece of paper a certain way. I have tried to tell her it’s okay and that none of us are perfect including myself and her dad. But she is just not hearing it. I’m attributing this to self esteem issues. Am I right, or is this normal for an only child?
    I also see her struggling to fit in with girls that are especially popular and older than her. When they want nothing to do with her she seems withdrawn. I am worried that she will definitely have some esteem problems later. I might go as far to say she’s a people pleaser and loves attention.

    She’s a very smart and loving child who loves to write, draw, and create artsy things. She also has a very creative imagination. I like the “I CAN” wall and the recommended book. I also like the clean up the room list. Can anyone recommend any others I can use to help her gain some confidence and self esteem? I want to address this as much as possible before she becomes older and it’s TOO LATE.

  11. Kyla Hamilton says:

    Elaine…from my own personal experience I have come to see that my child is a visual learner and has difficulty learning things when explained to them verbally.
    Perhaps have her sit on the couch and you and your husband act out a play or a puppet show or an art gallery about all of the wonderful things she has contributed to the family and to the world around her up to now.

    Just a thought, it may take alot of preparation but her beautiful gifts will be presented in front of her by the 2 people who mean the world to her.

    Good luck and God Speed.

  12. I read a great article once that suggested we don’t say “Good job” that is actually one of the many causes of self esteem issues. Check it out here!

    We instead encourage our children by saying “You did it!” when we feel the need to say Good job… now I find our three year old and 16 month old saying, when they have accomplished something all on their own.. I did it!

    It is beautiful to see and hear!

  13. Great information, Help child to set goals. Teach child that it’s not uncommon for a person who sets a goal not to reach or achieve the goal the first time. Improve his skills, make him confident. I have seen some books and CD’s available at the stores to increase their knowledge.