Self Esteem: Intro and Helpful Tips

What is self-esteem? It is the belief or collection of beliefs about oneself. We begin formulating our self-esteem very early in life, as early as infancy. We learn to develop our sense of self by attempting tasks, failing and learning how to succeed by trying again. Children also base their self-concepts off of their interactions with others, which start with their relationships with their parents. Feeling loved and supported on top of feeling capable are a great recipe for positive self-esteem. Thus, parental involvement is very important in developing a healthy self-esteem and an accurate reflection of ourselves.

Tips to help our children build healthy self-esteem:

  1. Praise for effort, work ethic and completion instead of the end result. For example, instead of focusing on the grade or an award a child earned, focus on the effort that was put into obtaining that grade or award. “Nice job! I really like how you worked so hard!”
  2. Remember to set a good example. As parents if we are excessively pessimistic, harsh on ourselves and continually setting unrealistic expectations, we are setting our children up to mirror our actions. Instead, be a good role model and nurture your own self-esteem.
  3. Give praise frequently, but honestly! Kids can tell when you are not being genuine. Remember to catch them exhibiting positive behavior and praise them, instead of focusing on and/or correcting negative behavior.

We do our children a disservice if we prevent them from experiencing challenges and even failure. The knowledge that, “It is okay to make mistakes” is invaluable. Learning not to fear failure at an early age can result in resilient, successful adults. When challenges arise, we want our children to be capable of coping, working toward finding solutions and being able to voice their discontent without belittling themselves or others. Again, modeling that it is okay to make mistakes is helpful. Maybe have a family group discussion on the thing that was the most challenging that day - Mom and Dad can contribute as well!

Bryndis J. Gudmundsson, MA, LMFT