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Your Child's Self-Esteem

Sometimes it's easy to notice when kids feel good about themselves and when they don't. This idea of feeling good about yourself is called self-esteem.

Kids with self-esteem feel liked, accepted, and confident. They’re proud of what they can do and think good things about themselves. Kids with low self-esteem criticize themselves and doubt they can do things well. They feel they're not as good as other kids and think of the times they fail rather than when they succeed.

Why Does Self-Esteem Matter?

Kids who feel good about themselves have the confidence to try their best at new things. They feel proud of what they can do. Self-esteem also helps kids cope with mistakes. They feel encouraged to try again, even if they fail at first. Self-esteem helps kids do better at school, at home, and with friends.

Kids with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. If they think others won't accept them, they may not join in. They may let others treat them poorly and have a hard time standing up for themselves. They may give up easily or not try at all. Kids with low self-esteem find it hard to cope when they make a mistake, lose, or fail. So they may not do as well as they could.

How Does Self-Esteem Develop?

Self-esteem can start to develop when a baby gets positive attention and loving care. It begins when a child feels safe, loved, and accepted.

As babies become toddlers and young children, they're able to do some things by themselves. They feel good about when they can use their new skills. Their self-esteem grows when parents pay attention, let them try, give smiles, and show pride.

As kids get older, self-esteem can grow any time children try things, do things, and learn things. This may happen when kids:

  • make progress toward a goal
  • learn things at school and get good grades
  • make friends and get along
  • do favorite activities, like music, sports, art, cooking, tech skills
  • help, give, or be kind
  • try hard at something and get praised
  • feel understood and accepted

When kids have self-esteem, they feel confident, capable, and accepted for who they are.

How Can Parents Help Build Self-Esteem?

If kids don’t feel good about themselves, parents can help. Boost your child’s self-esteem by doing things like being a good role model. Help kids learn to do stuff so they can feel proud. Praise effort and ban harsh criticism.

By helping build kids’ self-esteem, you let them know how valued and important they are.