Increasing self-esteem

How we think and feel about ourselves can have a large impact on success at school, home and in later life. Low-esteem in children and young people can make them feel unlikeable, unlovable, worthless and incompetent. This can affect their behaviour and make it difficult for them to form trusting relationships.

Enhancing self-esteem

Research suggests that someone's development of self-esteem can be influenced by a sense of:

  • security
  • identity
  • belonging
  • purpose
  • competence.

Linked to these there are things you, as a parent can do to boost your child's self-esteem.

  • Regularly listen to your child, uninterrupted. If you disagree with their views, try to understand their point of view when sharing yours with them.
  • Involve yourself in your child's life. Ask them what went well that day and share your day and what went well, with them too.
  • Encourage your child to share and help them problem solve any difficulties they are having. But don't press them if they are unwilling to share.
  • Use positive body language and smile.
  • Be fair and consistent. Set agreed limits, where possible.
  • Make appropriate demands of your child but do not overburden them too young as this could harm their self-confidence.
  • Help your child identify strengths, write them down. Use these strengths when helping your child deal with less successful events.
  • Create situations that allow your child to make decisions and choices.
  • Encourage your child to have friends, to socialise and have an interest/hobby or join a club.
  • Support your child's interests as this will send them a positive message about how you view them.
  • Encourage your child to try to understand other's points of view – including those of other members of the family.
  • Help your child set realistic goals and targets, so that success can be achieved and built on.
  • Be positive about mistakes and remind your child that making mistakes is part of learning and growing.
  • Encourage your child to try new things.
  • Give your child small tasks of responsibility, suitable for their age.
  • Be aware what your child needs. For example, if you know your child finds change difficult, find a way of measuring the time to the event happening.
  • Do something together with your child – shopping, baking, cleaning the car.
  • Be honest with your child. Find the right time for difficult discussions, when you both have enough time.
  • Have realistic expectations of your child. Understand your child's views on what they think they can achieve.
  • Give praise that is meaningful to your child.
  • Talk to your child's teacher about ways you can jointly help your child develop self-esteem at home and school.

Signs of low self-esteem

If you think your child might have low self-esteem, here are some signs to look for. Many youngsters will show some of these - as a parent you will know when to be concerned.

Your child or young person:

  • never volunteers information
  • cannot identify a strength
  • often puts themselves down
  • avoids eye contact
  • is withdrawn
  • never or rarely asks for clarification of anything
  • is inconsiderate towards siblings or parents
  • has no friends or says they don't want friends
  • cannot join in or share any activity
  • will only operate on their own terms
  • seeks to control others
  • tends to bully
  • tells tales
  • boasts or has an inappropriate sense of own ability
  • always seems unhappy
  • does not look forward to events, occasions or any change
  • acts as though he/she is the adult in the family.

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