6 Ways to Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Your child’s self-esteem — their sense of self-worth — is important for success and health as they get older. As a parent, you can build their self-esteem by boosting their confidence, supporting their efforts, and celebrating who they are. 

It’s easy to talk about unconditional love and support. However, finding and performing ways to build your child’s self-esteem can be a challenge. 

Be a Role Model for Self-Esteem

Kids are fast learners. They absorb information from their surroundings subconsciously that influences how they grow. If they see you being hard on yourself, downplaying your achievements, or being pessimistic, they are likely to mimic those behaviors.

This doesn’t mean to ignore your negative feelings. In fact, admitting your stress can convey that it’s okay to feel certain ways. Being optimistic and focusing on what you’re doing will teach them to have a healthy relationship with their negative emotions.

Set Goals

Setting goals can help communicate what is expected of your child. Appropriately setting a goal is a skill in itself.  

The challenge with setting a goal for your child is helping them understand what is realistic. Sometimes, this can only be determined by making mistakes. Guiding them through this process can help them set realistic expectations for themselves.

Your child may have high aspirations. Teaching them to break these larger dreams down into actionable goals is a vital skill in helping them achieve their desires and build their self-esteem. This type of communication will also help you understand their interests, and let them feel heard.

Give Them Ownership of Their Actions

Your child’s self-esteem gives them responsibility for their actions and experiences. Assigning them tasks and praising their achievements values their actions. Achieving these tasks gives them a sense of responsibility and value.

Small chores around the house are a great way to give your child responsibility. Honing in on your child’s interests and skills will allow them to enjoy what they’re doing and feel helpful doing it. Kids who like being outside will enjoy gardening or washing the car. Children who are neat may enjoy tidying up their toys or helping to fold the laundry. 

Let Them Make Mistakes

A large part of improvement is failing. Making a mistake provides a learning opportunity to figure out what to do next time. Viewing their mistakes as total failures will teach them to treat every mistake critically. 

Remind your children that they don’t need to be perfect by accepting their mistakes. Making a mistake is not something to feel bad about. Help them develop a positive response system to their mistakes so they can deal with them in a positive way. 

Praise and Encourage

Positive feedback is just as powerful as criticism. Being able to spin a comment into positive feedback is a skill that can change your child’s perceptions of their emotions and actions. Whether they make a mistake or find success, supporting their feelings and choices will help them make a better choice next time.

Positive feedback in response to a mistake will also encourage them to push forward. Confidence in themselves is developed through bouncing back from failures, not afraid of them. 

Watch What You Praise

When encouraging your child, be mindful of the message you’re sending. Some sources have broken down positive feedback into types of messages: “Being” and “Doing.”

Being Messages praise your child for who they are. This type of positive feedback celebrates your child’s identity. It looks beyond their actions to see the type of person they are. Overusing Being Messages can lead to being self-centered and reliant on “who they are” rather than actions.

Doing Messages praise your child’s actions. This type of positive feedback highlights your child’s talents and potential. Overusing Doing Messages can teach your child that their value lies in what they achieve and do, rather than themselves.

A balance of Messages is necessary to give your child a well-rounded sense of personal value. Make sure the feedback is sincere and specific to help your child learn.

Praise the effort, not the result. Similar to Being and Doing Messages, don’t praise only results. Praise the processes and efforts that go into their accomplishments. Only praising the results teaches them to value the results, which can lead to fragile self-esteem that is reliant on their accomplishments. 

Regularly showing your child affection, no matter their wins or losses, will teach them to love themselves during the good and bad. 

Show Sources


Child Mind Institute: “4 Small Ways to Build Confidence in Kids.” “12 Tips for Raising Confident Kids.”

Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego: “Developing Your Child’s Self-Esteem.”

The Center for Parenting Education: “WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SELF-ESTEEM.”

Understood: “7 ways to help your child develop positive self-esteem.”

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh: “Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem.”

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