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Growth and Development: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem

Growth and Development: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem


Self-esteem is a person's core belief about himself or herself. A person's self-esteem is reflected in his or her actions, both in how as well as what he or she does. Although self-esteem varies from time to time, the pattern usually leans toward a healthy or unhealthy view of self. With healthy self-esteem, a person is more likely to succeed in life.

Although building self-esteem is a lifelong process, the foundation of self-esteem is established in childhood. That foundation can do much to help a child deal with difficult life issues as they are encountered.

Parents have the greatest influence on a child's belief about himself or herself. Letting your child know that he or she belongs, is doing well, and is contributing can help him or her develop healthy self-esteem.

Keep these things in mind as you raise your child.

  • Children sense that they belong by the way their parents talk to them and act toward them. Show and tell your child that you love and care for him or her.
  • Children learn about how well they are doing by how their parents react to their behavior. Offer praise to children when they show positive behavior, and provide them with correction when mistakes are made.
  • Children learn how to work with others by learning how to cooperate within a family. Give your child some age-appropriate household responsibilities.

How you can help your child develop healthy self-esteem

Developing a sense of belonging, learning, and contributing can help your child develop healthy self-esteem. The following are ways you can help promote this development in your child.


Through contact with others, we know that we are loved and respected and that we belong. Use the following suggestions to help your child feel he or she belongs within your family.

  • Show your love. Let your child know you love him or her for who he or she is, not for what he or she does. Make it a habit to show your love for your child in at least two ways each day.
  • Let your child know that he or she is special. List at least three of your child's good qualities and post them on your refrigerator. Add to these qualities from time to time. Celebrate your child's good qualities often.
  • Praise your child. Make positive comments about your child's behavior. Notice your child's strengths, even when he or she is misbehaving. When you focus on what you like, your child's behavior may improve.
  • Listen to your child. When your child shares something with you, give him or her your undivided attention and listen carefully. Don't give advice unless asked for it or you feel your child's safety is involved. Don't ridicule or shame your child.
  • Have family times. Have regular times for the family to have fun together, such as playing board or card games. Try to have as many family meals together as possible. Don't discuss problems or concerns you have with your child during these times unless it is absolutely needed.
  • Encourage positive peer experiences. Look for activities with peers where your child can feel success and acceptance, such as participating in a sport or joining a club.


Although learning really takes place all the time, plan to create a learning opportunity for your child at least once a week.

  • Choose a learning activity. Choose an activity that is appropriate for your child's age and that builds on his or her strengths. Do not overstress the danger or difficulty involved in a task or activity. You might invite your child to help with one of your chores or hobbies. If you do, be sure that you are not feeling rushed during the activity. Let it be a fun time.
  • Let your child try. Even if your child has difficulty with a new task or skill, don't quickly take over and show him or her how to do it. Be patient and let your child try.
  • Break up a complex task. Simple steps help a child see progress when learning a complex skill. Don't embarrass your child by asking him or her to do difficult tasks in front of other people.
  • Praise accomplishments. Even if the completed work does not meet your standard, find at least one positive thing to say.
  • Encourage practice. When your child is learning a new skill that takes practice, such as riding a bicycle, don't expect perfection the first time. Help your child to not give up on the first try. Encourage your child to practice and talk about his or her improvement with each practice time.


Contributing enhances our feelings of belonging, providing the basis for continued learning and strengthening of self-esteem. Every day, use the following suggestions to help your child feel that he or she is contributing.

  • Set family rules. Family rules help children know that the family stands for something and gives them exposure to order and ritual. Have as few family rules as possible and enforce them consistently. Write down your family's rules and the consequences if those rules are broken.
  • Invite cooperation. Regular family meetings are a way to help children learn to cooperate. Family meetings are a place where family members discuss concerns and problems.
  • Expect accountability. You can help your child learn to be responsible by assigning him or her some household chores. Make sure the chores are appropriate for your child's age. As your child grows, hold your child accountable for his or her choices and behavior and let your child experience natural or logical consequences.
  • Express appreciation. Let your child know you appreciate his or her help with tasks, even household chores.

You may want to keep a journal when you are starting to use this method. Each day for at least 3 weeks, write in your journal specifically how you helped your child develop a sense of belonging, learning, and contributing. Keeping a journal for an extended period of time will help encourage positive behavior. After 3 weeks, review your notes to see your child's progress and to identify new ways to help your child.


Current as of: August 3, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

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