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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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
- Self-Esteem & Mental Health | Guide For Parents | YoungMinds
- Helping your child build self-esteem – Family Lives
- Low self-esteem in children and how you can help as a parent/carer from CAMHS North Derbyshire
- How do I know if my child has low self-esteem and how can I help build my child’s self-esteem?From the charity Action for Children with a quiz, a discussion on social media and self-esteem and links to an activity diary to help highlight when things go well.
- Self-esteem tips for children aged 1-18 years – raisingchildren.net.au Great advice for all ages with advice on how to teach your child to handle when things go wrong. The video below shows some examples of using descriptive praise.
- Strong Is The New Pretty and The Heart Of A Boy are two books of glorious photographs by Kate Parker celebrating girls and boys and their strength, resilience, and spirit.
How to use descriptive praise
Helping me feel good about myself
- What is self-esteem and how can I boost it?
Always putting yourself down? Boosting your confidence with extra advice on building self-belief after bullying and bringing out the best in you.
- Boost your mood and confidence by trying something new try this game for some ideas
- Michael Jordan – a kid’s book about not fearing failure so you can succeed for 4-8 yrs
- Zero by Kathryn Otoshi. As budding young readers learn about numbers and counting, they are also introduced to accepting different body types, developing social skills and character, and learning what it means to find value in yourself and in others. You may be able to get this in your local library.
- Small Saul by A. Spires. Great for younger children who love pirates and who may benefit from a small boost in self-acceptance
- Confidence is my superpower for 4-8 yrs written by a teacher and recommended by parents
- Mistakes are how I learn for pre-and primary school-age children written by a teacher
- ‘Be Yourself- Why it’s Great to be You! by Poppy O’Neill. A story with lots of tips for parents along the way, celebrating individuality. Also useful in schools.
- You’re a star. A child’s guide to self-esteem’ by Poppy O’Neil. This practical guide combines proven cognitive-behavioural therapy methods used by child psychologists in schools with simple activities to help your child grow their self-esteem. It’s aimed at children aged 7–11 because a lot happens in these years that can impact a child’s sense of self-worth, not just now but for years to come. Your child will be guided, with the help of Bop – a friendly and supportive character they can identify with – through fun and engaging activities which are interspersed with useful tips, inspirational statements and practical information for parents.
- ‘Happy Confident Me Life Skill Journal’ Written by esteemed and highly reputable Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, together with Parenting expert and Coach Nadim Saad, the pair have called on their decades of clinical and coaching experience to combine their real-world experiences with the latest research in wellbeing to help children thrive. Age 8 – 13 years
- ‘I am Enough’ by Grace Byers. Buy it or watch it read aloud here: (14) Grace Byers Reads “I Am Enough” | Bookmarks | Netflix Jr – YouTube This gorgeous, ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo.
- ‘I Like Myself’ by Karen Beaumont. Buy it or watch it read aloud here: (14) Read Aloud: I Like Myself By: Karen Beaumont – YouTube Exuberant rhymes and wild illustrations celebrate self-acceptance and self-love
- Self-esteem | PlantLoveGrow. Worksheets to help with self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance, self-pride, gratitude, positive affirmations, self-respect, body acceptance