4 ways to build your child’s self-esteem

In recent years there has been a debate that questions the value of good self-esteem.

You may hear it argued that a child has too much self-esteem, looks down on others, is inconsiderate or intolerant of others, has a sense of entitlement and an inflated idea of their abilities and therefore doesn’t take steps to improve.

This is a myth which depends on a misunderstanding about the meaning of self- esteem and it confuses bravado with real self-confidence.

When a person gets on a TV ‘reality’ show such as The Apprentice and announces that “I am a miracle” when they’re about to be booted off the show, that’s not self-esteem, that’s denial.

Someone who is parading his abilities is looking for external affirmation of his value so is not really certain of his own worth. He is deeply insecure that he isn’t good enough, so he must constantly measure himself against others and win.

People with good self-esteem are secure about their value so they don’t need to compare themselves to others or inflate their abilities.

To build a child’s self-esteem you can:

our children by praising them specifically and sincerely. A child learns through his parents’ approval that he is important and significant, and that he is cherished by them.

our children by listening to their feelings,ideas and opinions.

the development of skills and competencies – help them to feel capable and trusted, including helping them deal constructively with their mistakes.

confident behaviour, avoid putting ourselves down and handle failures constructively.

When a child has a healthy self-esteem he is: MORE likely to:

  • value others; i.e. he doesn’t need to put others down in order to build himself
  • behave well, in appropriate and considerate ways up
  • take responsibility for his own actions because he feels basically OK about himself and feels that mainly he gets things right (he is less likely to deny, make excuses, cheat, blame others)
  • try new things, put up her hand in class even if she may make a mistake, take reasonable risks and to persevere
  • accept positive and negative feedback and learn from her mistakes
  • form loving relationships
  • stand up for herself and put herself forward when opportunities arise
  • expect (and require) that others will treat her with respect
  • weather life’s knocks better

LESS likely to:

  • be dependent on others for approval
  • be hyper-sensitive to criticism, to construe others’ actions as critical of himself
  • seek to make up for feelings of inadequacy by bragging, putting others down, using physical or verbal violence to assert himself or by bullying others
  • demonstrate the sort of learned helplessness that comes from not trusting oneself to do anything alone, not believing in one’s own abilities. (If she seeks help for everything she lessens the risk of failing)
  • be vulnerable to (can say no to): peer pressure (he is able to trust his own judgment) bullying and, when older, smoking, drinking and drugs, inappropriate sexual relationships (equating sex with love), self-harm including eating disorders

This extract is taken from Real Parenting for Real Kids by Melissa Hood. You can download the e-book here 


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