Boost your child’s self-esteem

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Part published by Generation Next

We know that a sense of self is still developing in teenagers, however a good reason for encouraging healthy ‘self-esteem’ would be to grow children that end up as resilient adults.


On my Facebook page this week, I posed the question, ‘Self-esteem and your child. Important or over-rated?’

I put the question out there because I believe the term can be viewed in one of 2 ways.

  1. Those that think they don’t want their child to turn out as a self-important brat, so they don’t view self-esteem building as necessary.
  2. The group that over do it and have children that think the world revolves around them.

I loved the discussion that followed:

Nicole Maxfield Carr Of course it’s important Monday at 5:34pm via mobile ·  ·  

Naomi Warth So so so very important. If a child is not praised and encouraged as a child then they will become sullen, incapable adults who don’t try in life or strive to excel in everything they attempt. There are enough beaten and downtrodden children already in the world so why on earth would anyone voluntarily make their children face a similar fate through not simply saying “well done; great work; super effort” ets Monday at 5:35pm via mobile ·  ·  1

Kathryn PilgrimImportant, but on the right things in life eg their value as a human being, and not shallow things like looks. Monday at 5:37pm via mobile

Jodi PhilpottImportant but it should never be every child wins a prize as they do need to deal with disappointment!!  Monday at 5:46pm via mobile

Nycki Murray Totally important… as long as you also teach them that other people’s feelings are equally as important as theirs ♥  Monday at 5:48pm ·  ·  2

Natural New Age Mum important – it’s not just about praise though Monday at 5:58pm ·  ·  2

Briana Pearce Very important!!  Monday at 6:16pm via mobile · 


Lee Lo Important as long as it isn’t “fake” self-esteem building or creating “big” little egos who often are quite inconsiderate of other children. Good or effective self esteem building assists kids to have value in themselves, pride in their work and to interact well with others, growing their independence and helping them navigate their way around life as they get older. What I call “fake” self-esteem building does not. For example, kids do need to learn that sometimes they win and also will loose, and need to learn to be gracious on both occasions. Learning to loose graciously can be hard, but parents need to guide their kids in this – yes the initial feeling of losing can be hard (and some might say damaging to their self-esteem), but with the right guidance kids can be fostered gently to learn that it is not the end of the world and build on this so that it isn’t such a self-esteem busting thing in the future. Monday at 6:24pm

Heather BargerI believe we need to raise confident children. Children who have a balanced self esteem do not allow their peers to define who they are. Monday at 6:29pm

Liz Walker ‎’Self’ is an interesting discussion and some would say its fueled the ‘I’ generation. I’ve reflected of late the concept of charity – giving in order to feel good. When a person does something good for someone else, it can supercharge feelings of worth – after all, that’s what it’s about – feeling worthy/worthwhile.Monday at 7:52pm via mobile · Unlike ·  2

Jessica Linke Well it is important, but it’s a differenct concept in children because self esteem can’t be ‘taught’ or ‘given’. Real self esteem in confidence in your own abilities which is earned through time and experience. People seem to think that in children it’s believing yourself to be special through being given lots of praise. In adults this is called arrogance. While it’s true you should ‘praise’ your children, a lot of people are doing it wrong by focusing on results, appearance or outcomes rather than effort. Even I struggle with it, I have to remind myself to avoid the phrase ‘good job’ all the time. Instead it should be simple acknowledgement, whether they were successful or not. Something like “Wow you climbed up there all by yourself”, or “You worked very hard on that”. This teaches the child to derive satisfaction from their own efforts, while still receiving important parental acknowledgement. The goal is to teach them to derive their own intrinsic and internal satisfaction from achievement without needing it from us or others. This is not to say that parents are doing a bad job by praising their children, just that praise is largely misunderstood as is self esteem. Plenty of smarter people than me have done a much better job of explaining it.Monday at 8:34pm · Unlike ·  6

I especially loved this line by Jessica Linke, “While it’s true you should ‘praise’ your kids, a lot of people are doing it wrong by focusing on results, appearance or outcomes rather than effort.”

Self-esteem is not about being boastful or proud but having a healthy view of your abilities and what you can offer the world.

I also get asked whether it is more common for teens to lack confidence these days?

I don’t believe it is any more common than it has ever been, however I think we are more aware that by actively building a healthy sense of self, we can assist our teens to safe-guard against issues such as teenage depression, eating disorders and of course spilling over into general social skills struggles.

How do we know if our child thinks poorly of themselves? You may notice:

  • Acting out or disruptive behaviours (Negative attention still acts as a reinforcement for being noticed)
  • Internalising behaviours (Your teenager becomes more quiet, contemplative or self-focused than usual)
  • Struggling with friendships and social skills
  • Always putting themselves down
  • Won’t try new things for fear of failure or looking silly

What can we do to encourage our teen’s self worth? 

  • Provide opportunities to discover capabilities (Enroll in sports and activities. Gentle pressure is sometimes necessary) 
  • Encourage teenagers to make their own decisions & seek alternatives (Don’t always give them the answers)
  • Engage in healthy debate and problem solving discussions
  • Provide kind feedback on how to accept weaknesses or learn from mistakes
  • Teach the importance of self-praise (Not relying on parents, teachers, friends to feel good about something they have done)
  • Pursue occasions to give to the community (See Liz Walker’s comment above) 

Is there anything that we should avoid doing or saying? 

  • Don’t take away all natural consequences
  • Don’t do everything for your teenager all the time – encourage help around the home 
  • Don’t re-do their jobs e.g re-make their bed if it is not ‘perfect’
  • Discourage use of ‘victim’ language; I’m so dumb, no-one likes me, it always happens to me.

I always tell my own children and also the teens I work with, “Remember that, every single person here has their ‘stuff’, but some just fake it really well. We torment ourselves by thinking, it is just me and others have it all together or all perfect. This is simply not true.”


Collett on The Morning Show:

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