Building Self-Esteem in Kids

One of the most frequent concerns I hear from parents is that their children struggle with low self esteem. We ‘re all worried that our kids don’t feel good enough about themselves. It seems to me that this is a generational issue. If we asked our grandparents if they worried about building self-esteem in their children they’d probably give you a strange look! That was not something that they were concerned about. They were more concerned with raising good citizens and perhaps that’s what we should be concerned about as well. Maybe if we focused on that, the self-esteem would take care of itself. But here we are in 2015 with lots of ideas floating around about how to build a positive self image in our kids. This is what I have learned over the past 30 years in my practice. Families that have kids with a positive self-image are good at the these things:

  • Self esteem is gained by trying things and being successful. So allow your kids to have responsibilities in the home early so they can learn to feel good about their abilities and their contributions in the family.
  • Encourage independence early. Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves. This builds confidence. Whether it’s dressing themselves, tying their shoes, or doing their term paper. Let them struggle a bit and figure it out on their own before you step in to give unnecessary help. Previous generations were much better at having higher expectations of their kids than is the current generation. We jump in and rescue too early, depriving our kids of the satisfaction gained from figuring it out on their own.
  • Allow your kids to explore hobbies, interests, sports and find their talents and gifts. Allow them to go with those interests even if they’re not your interests. Don’t push them to do one thing if they really show an interest in another. If they hate soccer but really show an interest in music, allow them to explore that, even if you love sports!
  • Expose them to many different opportunities and see what they’re drawn to.
  • Have reasonably high expectations for behavior and performance. Kids will often rise to the level that you expect.
  • Encourage healthy social contact. Friendships are very important in building a positive self image. Help young kids learn how to be a good friend. Kids who are shy may need help developing friendships. If you notice your child being drawn to another child invite that him or her over for a play date or arrange an activity for them to do together. Having a feeling of belonging is essential to building healthy self esteem.

Do you have other ideas about raising kids with a positive self image? If so, I’d love to hear them!


About Gretchen Derda (Woosley), MSW, LCSW

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in a private psychotherapy practice where I specialize in work with families and children. My focus is to help families improve their functioning so that each member of the family can reach their full potential, becoming the persons they were meant to be.
This entry was posted in adolescent mental health, child mental health, Family Life, mental health, parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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