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Developing Your Child's Self-Esteem


Sometimes it's easy to notice when kids seem to feel good about themselves — and when they don't. We often describe this idea of feeling good about ourselves as "self-esteem." 

Kids who have healthy self-esteem tend to:

Kids with low self-esteem often: 

Why Self-Esteem Matters

When children feel good about themselves, it sets them up for success — in everything from school to friendships. Positive feelings like self-acceptance or self-confidence help kids try new challenges, cope with mistakes, and try again. Taking pride in their abilities and accomplishments helps kids do their best. 

By contrast, kids with low self-esteem might feel unsure of themselves. If they think others won't accept them, they may not participate as often. They may allow themselves to be treated poorly and have a hard time standing up for themselves. Kids who don't expect to do well may avoid challenges, give up easily, or be unable to bounce back from mistakes.

Having low self-esteem can block success. It can leave kids distracted by the stress of how to deal with everyday challenges. 

How Self-Esteem Develops

Contrary to what some might think, self-esteem does not come telling kids they're wonderful, special, and great (even though they are!). Giving every child a trophy doesn't help kids' self-esteem. Indeed, it's possible for kids to feel good about themselves even when they fail.

When children compete — win or lose — they see that their own hard work and practice can make a difference. Earning a prize contributes to self-esteem only when a kid knows he or she earned it.

Self-esteem is the result of experiences that help a child feel capable, effective, and accepted. 

How Parents Can Nurture Self-Esteem

Self-esteem develops over time. And if it's low, it can be raised. Here are things parents can do:

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2016


Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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