Self-esteem can be boosted in so many ways, but it’s not about praising everything a child does or never telling them off. Here are a few top tips, but most of all parents can help by remembering these things for themselves. For example, not call ourselves stupid when we fail and model self-acceptance and kindness.
Some of the resources below could be done together with your child to build their overall self-confidence. Children who have experienced trauma when they were younger, may especially struggle with poor self-esteem and need lots of descriptive praise (see both videos below).
Self-esteem may also suffer through bullying and through exposure to social media and the unrealistic expectations it places on people. There are more resources that might be helpful for your family on the body image page.

Three Top Tips

  1. Research shows that self-esteem is boosted by trying new things and by understanding that mistakes are a part of learning. It isn’t boosted by being praised for something we have no control over (e.g. how we look) nor is it helped by being told off for making mistakes. Praise is most effective if it’s specific (“I liked the way you helped me with my bag”) rather than general (“good boy”) For a short video of some examples of descriptive praise, see the bottom of this page. For children who are really struggling, try noticing every small thing they do well or make an effort with.

  2. If a child behaves in a challenging way, try to call out the behaviour rather than call the child rude, lazy or naughty. If you’re really thinking about it and have time to take a deep breath, offering an alternative behaviour that you’d rather see can be a nice way of doing this e.g ” Instead of shouting at me, you could try asking in a quiet voice and saying please”. No guarantees it will work every time but it’s a lot less undermining and you will feel better too!

  3. Parents and carers naturally want to help their children in any way possible- fix their problems and remove obstacles in their way. It’s hard to realise that sometimes that can inadvertently result in children feeling less able and more anxious, as they haven’t learnt how to negotiate those bumps in the road. For younger children, you can still give them a feeling of control even when you’re helping by looking at choices together and asking for their suggestions. Even harder might be allowing them to make a choice you don’t think is great and letting them see what happens -as long as it’s safe of course. Read on for more advice from these charities and professionals.


Boosting your child’s self-esteem

How to use descriptive praise

Helping me feel good about myself