Understanding self-esteem

Valuing yourself and having the confidence to tackle difficult situations are skills that we all continue to build throughout our lives. If you are a parent, carer or teacher, read more below. Two other pages that might be useful are body image and bullying.
happy girl with self-esteem

Self-esteem can be boosted in many ways, but it’s not about praising everything a child or young person does or never telling them off. Most of all, adults can try to remember these things for themselves and model self-acceptance and kindness.


Three top tips for boosting confidence and self-esteem

  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. the way 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 (“Well done”) For a short video of some examples of parents using descriptive praise in teenagers, see the bottom of this page.
  2. If a young person behaves badly, try to discuss the behaviour rather than call them rude, lazy or naughty. If you’re 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 looking at your phone while we’re talking, could you put it down for a minute?”. 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. It’s hard to realise that all that help can result in young people feeling less able and more anxious as they haven’t learnt how to negotiate those bumps in the road. That might even mean 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.

Video: Using Descriptive Praise


For Young People

Are you feeling low in confidence, feeling bad about yourself or afraid to try new things? The links below are for different ages from year 7 up to young adults, so have a look at what might help you.

Downloadable resources