In our last blog on self-esteem in children, we learned that parental involvement is key to development of healthy self-esteem. Now that you recognize signs of healthy and unhealthy self-esteem in children, here are some things you can do to ensure your child develops a healthy self-esteem.
Despite their best efforts, many times parents can make mistakes in communication that increase problems with self-esteem. Here are some traps parents fall into which contribute to low self-esteem:
- Being dishonest: Not telling their children the truth
- Criticizing their efforts: Making statements such as “You should have tried harder”
- Overpraising: Frequently making statement such as “You are the best kid in the world”
- Going to great lengths in order for your child not to feel negative feelings: Not allowing your child to feel disappointment and giving in to your child’s requests often even if inappropriate.
- Discouraging your child from taking risks: Making statements such as “Don’t go play outside, you might get hurt”
- Discouraging independence: This can be observed when parents do things for their child that they can do themselves such as bathing them when they can do it themselves.
In addition to avoiding actions that decrease self-worth, Myers (2011) notes that parents can take active steps to increase their children’s self-esteem. Here are some tools that can help:
- Support your child’s interests: If your child is passionate about dinosaurs, try to match their enthusiasm and look for opportunities for them to explore this interest with you
- Validate their feelings: When your child is upset regardless of the reason, make a statement about how you can see that they are upset. Naming and acknowledging a child’s feelings helps them to understand that they are important.
- Provide honest feedback: Honesty is very important for children. Making honest statements such as “I know you don’t like to share your toys but sharing is important. How about you continue to try and share your toys until it becomes easier?”
- Provide them with praise and encouragement: It is important for children to be able to identify what they are doing right. Make statements such as “I liked how you shared your toys” or “I am proud of you for eating all your vegetables”. These types of statements are actually much more powerful than blanket praise or adoration.
- Create a safe and loving home environment: Maintain an open and honest communication with your child and model appropriate behavior.
- Acknowledge their accomplishments as well as their effort. Let them know that you seem them trying even when they may not get what they want or when they make mistakes. This type of praise helps children to build confidence in their ability to keep trying.
- Be a good role model: Positive role modeling is important for children as a lot of what children learn is through observation.
Dr. Tina Alexandrian is a licensed clinical psychologist at the Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine. She has extensive experience in working with children, adults, and families. Her approach to psychotherapy involves a combination of cognitive-behavioral and solution-focused methods. She has cultivated an eclectic style that is individually tailored and effective for treating a multitude of emotional and psychological problems. Having the opportunity to be exposed to many different cultures in her personal life has led Dr. Alexandrian to gain a deep level of understanding and appreciation for the impact of cultural factors in the therapeutic process. She has worked extensively with individuals and families from diverse backgrounds and practices therapy in Armenian and Spanish as well as English.
Please feel free to call the Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine for further information 818-446-2522 or email
Myers, R. (2011, September). Self-esteem: How to help children and teens develop positive self-image. Retrieved from http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-psychology/self-esteem/