11 ways to help your kids build self-esteem

Last week, my son Aaron made the school soccer team. Boy, was I proud. And I couldn’t stop saying so. “Good job, buddy! You’re the best!” I beamed, he beamed, and all seemed right with the world.

It’s not the first time my kids have heard me shout their praises. I’m the resident cheering section, their biggest fan, a back-patter extraordinaire. These days, you can find me handing out compliments as if they’re sticks of gum—when my kids practice guitar, score a goal, help with dishes. The mom logic goes like this: The kid does good (or good enough for me), so I make him feel great about himself. It’s called boosting self-esteem. Or so I thought.

1. Step back
As it turns out, there are better ways to build self-esteem than heaping on praise for everything kids do—starting with helping them become competent in the world, says Jim Taylor, author of the book Your Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You. To do so, though, you have to learn to step back and let your child take risks, make choices, solve problems and stick with what they start.

2. Over-praising kids does more harm than good
Self-esteem comes from feeling loved and secure, and from developing competence, Taylor says, and although parents often shower their kids with the first two ingredients, competence—becoming good at things—takes time and effort. “As much as we may want to, we can’t praise our kids into competence,” he says.

In fact, by over-praising kids, we’re doing more harm than good. “We’re lowering the bar for them,” Taylor says. “If you keep telling your child she is already doing a fantastic job, you’re saying she no longer needs to push herself. But confidence comes from doing, from trying and failing and trying again—from practice.”

Samantha MacLeod, who has four boys, ages one to nine, believes constant complimenting can actually erode self-esteem. Either kids start thinking they’re perfect or they try to be perfect all the time—an impossible standard. And inaccurate praise confuses them, she says. “If my son can’t spell and I tell him he’s doing terrific, he learns not to trust his own instincts. He also learns that praise is just flat-out lying.”

Plus, Taylor adds, telling your child he’s the best, the smartest or the most talented is setting him up for some very bad news down the road. You’re creating an egomaniac who thinks his scribbles are Rothkos but, sooner or later, he’ll discover he’s not all that after all.

3. Let your child take healthy risks
Start by forcing yourself to stand back while your child takes healthy risks, says Victoria Sopik, CEO of Kids & Company, a corporate childcare service in Toronto, and a mother of eight. “To build confidence in the world, kids have to take chances, make choices and take responsibility for them,” Sopik says. She sees too many parents trying to rescue their kids from failure all the time.

Sopik remembers staring from across the room as her two-year-old son, Fraser, lifted a huge jug of orange pop at a fancy party. “He was about to pour it into a glass, and I just stood there, holding my breath,” Sopik recalls.  Rather than trying to save her son before he had a chance to try, Sopik watched as Fraser spilled the pop all over the floor.

Then came the best part: Fraser found a waitress, asked for a paper towel and cleaned up his own mess. “He solved his own problem—just like we do as successful adults,” Sopik says.

4. Let kids make their own choices
When kids make their own age-appropriate choices, they feel more powerful, says Sopik, pointing out that kids as young as two can start considering the consequences of their decisions. Sopik always let her kids decide on their own whether to wear a coat, hat and mittens in winter. “Once they knew the difference between warm and cold, it was up to them. They should have control over their bodies and take responsibility for their choices,” she says.

5. Let them help around the house
In building self-esteem, kids also need opportunities to demonstrate their competence and feel that their contribution is valuable, says Taylor. At home, that means asking them, even when they’re toddlers, to help with cooking, setting the table and making beds.

6. Encourage them to pursue their interests (fully)
Another surefire way to boost confidence in kids is to encourage them to take on tasks they show interest in, then make sure they follow through to completion. It doesn’t matter what the task—it could be anything from swimming laps to beating levels in video games. The point is for them to stick with what they start, so they feel that hit of accomplishment at the end.

7. What to do when children struggle or fail
What if your child’s self-esteem plummets when she gets cut from the gymnastics team or can’t memorize multiplication tables?

8. Don’t lose sleep over it
 “So many parents have it backward,” Taylor says. “They think struggles and failure will hurt their kids’ self-esteem, but it’s actually a golden opportunity to help build it.”

9. Make clear that your love is unconditional
Let your child know you love her even when she fails or makes bad decisions. If all you talk about is performance, Sopik points out, she will think you only love her for her report card or the lead she got in the play.

10. Make sure your child’s goals are within reach, at a level appropriate for his ability
That may mean suggesting he join house league, where he can feel like a star rather than being the last one picked on the AA team. MacLeod learned this lesson when her son, Alex, was in grade two. Feeling like a failure at reading, Alex was ready to give up when MacLeod brought home some Magic Tree House books, which were slightly below Alex’s level. “He read one every two days and was so proud of himself that he went on to read the Goosebumps series, no problem,” she recalls. Afterward, mother and son talked about how Alex’s choice to practice paid off, and she praised his perseverance.

11. Offer appropriate praise
Although praise is often misused, when it’s specific and earned, it is a valuable self-esteem builder, Taylor says.

Lorna Crosse, a former music teacher, remembers asking her choir students to keep a “brag file” full of praise they earned. Any time they saw their names in a program or newspaper article or received a complimentary note, they were to put it inside. “When the kids had a bad day, they would take out those words of praise and read all the neat things they had done, and it would make them feel better about themselves.”

The brag file works because it shows kids specific ways they’re special and teaches them that practice reaps rewards, Taylor says. And it’s the practice—the effort—that should be the focus of praise, Sopik says. “Don’t just say ‘great play’. Tell him it was awesome how he passed the ball to his teammate.”

And keep in mind that a little indirect praise, such as stars on a chore chart, can work wonders. Mom Nancy Botelho gets even more inventive. She makes sure her kids “overhear” a little boasting. “I’ll tell my friends how the teacher said Margaret is so kind, or how I saw Bridget working so hard at tying her shoes. The kids just shine. Since they were spying, they know I mean it and I’m not just trying to make them feel good.”

Your self-esteem checklist

Here are some of the things that the Canadian Mental Health Association says you can do to help raise confident—not coddled—kids:

Feel special. It’s important for you to help your children discover their own unique talents and qualities, and to value their own strengths. But also teach them that feeling special doesn’t mean feeling better than others.

Set goals. Teach your kids to work towards a goal and to have pride in their accomplishments. Provide them with opportunities for success.

Try, try again. Encourage your children to try things their own way, face challenges and take risks.

by Randi Chapnik Myers

10,078 comments on “11 ways to help your kids build self-esteem
  1. Zachary Keetan says:

    Can I simply say what a comfort to find a person that truly knows what they are talking about on the internet. You actually understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people need to look at this and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you aren’t more popular since you surely have the gift.|

  2. waterproofing says:

    Great info. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

  3. celebrities wearing golden goose sneakers says:

    Merely wanna remark on few general things, The website layout is
    perfect, the content is real superb :D.

  4. consumer products list says:

    bookmarked!!, I really like your web site!

  5. Mattie Vivenzio says:

    I simply could not go away your web site before suggesting that I actually loved the standard information an individual provide in your guests? Is gonna be back frequently in order to inspect new posts|

  6. Helmsecurity.com says:

    May I simply say what a comfort to find someone that actually knows what
    they’re talking about on the net. You actually know how to bring
    an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people must check this out and understand this
    side of the story. It’s surprising you are not more popular because you surely have
    the gift.

  7. Yong Hubschmitt says:

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.|

  8. guided tour says:

    Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve
    really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing for your rss feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

  9. Leonard Ercolani says:

    Whoa! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a totally different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!|

  10. sky777 slot game says:

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your site and detailed information you provide.
    It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same
    old rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  11. quick hit slots mod version says:

    Thiss iѕs very interesting, You are a very skilⅼeԀ blogger.

    I’ve jojned your feed and looк forward
    to seekіng more ߋf your excellent post. Also, I haνe
    shared your web site iin my social networkѕ!

  12. Dadu Koprok says:

    This website was… how do you say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I have found something which helped me.
    Appreciate it!

  13. best products to sell online 2016 says:

    Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look
    it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this
    to my followers! Exceptional blog and outstanding design and style.

  14. poker games says:

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future.

    Cheers

  15. Renuvaline says:

    Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy
    your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  16. www.makitech.com.my says:

    Sweet blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem
    to get there! Appreciate it

  17. deportation lawyer says:

    I really like reading an article that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  18. George Alamos says:

    I can’t believe how great this site is. You keep up the good work. That’s my advice pal.

  19. du lịch đà lạt says:

    My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be
    exactly I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to
    write content for you? I wouldn’t mind creating a post
    or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write about here.
    Again, awesome web log!

  20. agen resmi piala dunia says:

    Appreciating the commitment you put into your website and in depth information you offer.
    It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a
    while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Fantastic read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to
    my Google account.

  21. Porfirio Prosser says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!|

  22. 강남풀싸롱 says:

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  23. service epson says:

    I want to to thank you for this good read!! I certainly loved every bit of it.
    I have got you bookmarked to check out new stuff
    you post?

  24. 강남풀싸롱 says:

    Very nice write-up. I definitely love this site. Keep it up!

  25. Consultoria SEO says:

    Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this blog.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very
    hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness
    and appearance. I must say that you’ve done a amazing job with this.
    Additionally, the blog loads very fast for me on Internet explorer.
    Outstanding Blog!

  26. Dave Odonell says:

    Good info. Lucky me I came across your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!|

  27. internet says:

    Simply desire to say your article is as astonishing.
    The clarity to your submit is simply spectacular and that i can think you’re knowledgeable in this subject.

    Fine together with your permission let me
    to clutch your feed to stay up to date with imminent post.
    Thanks one million and please continue the enjoyable work.

  28. Toko Mesin says:

    I like the helpful info you supply on your articles. I will bookmark
    your weblog and check once more right here frequently.
    I’m somewhat certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next! Toko Mesin

  29. jamaican crime movies says:

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always interesting to read through articles
    from other writers and use a little something
    from other sites.

  30. 918kiss online says:

    First of all I would like to say awesome blog!
    I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
    I have had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually
    lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips?

    Thanks!

  31. Golden Goose Deluxe Brand says:

    You are so cool! I do not suppose I have read a single thing like that before.
    So wonderful to discover somebody with original thoughts on this topic.
    Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one
    thing that’s needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

  32. Maryrose Sprinkel says:

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will eventually come back later on. I want to encourage one to continue your great work, have a nice day!|

  33. sky777 minimum deposit rm10 says:

    You can certainly see your expertise within the article
    you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such
    as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe.
    At all times go after your heart.

  34. TryVix Cream says:

    I leave a response when I appreciate a post on a site or I have something to add to the conversation. It is
    triggered by the fire communicated in the post I looked at.
    And after this article 11 ways to help your kids build self-esteem – Real Mann.
    I was excited enough to leave a commenta response 🙂 I actually do have some questions for you if it’s okay.

    Could it be only me or do a few of these comments look like coming from brain dead folks?

    😛 And, if you are writing on additional online sites, I’d
    like to keep up with you. Would you list every one of your communal sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  35. rubber wristbands for events says:

    I enjoy your writing style genuinely enjoying this site.

  36. Donetta Reinbold says:

    Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve take note your stuff prior to and you’re just too magnificent. I actually like what you’ve bought here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which by which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you continue to take care of to stay it wise. I can not wait to learn far more from you. That is actually a terrific site.|

  37. wizytowki says:

    This web site really has all the info I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  38. www.youtube.com says:

    Peculiar article, exactly what I wanted to find.

  39. Nitridex Pills says:

    I am impressed with this site, really I am a fan.

  40. Asthijivak in Pakistan says:

    Highly descriptive post, I liked that a lot.
    Will there be a part 2?

  41. hack Fortnite 2018 says:

    Keep this goіng please, great job!

  42. buy followers for instagram says:

    Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick
    shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading through your
    posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Thanks for your time!

  43. card games says:

    Good day very cool blog!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your site and take
    the feeds also? I’m happy to seek out numerous useful info here within the publish, we need work out more
    techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing.
    . . . . .

  44. Arthur Ventre says:

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Appreciate it!|

  45. car parts says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  46. Chloe Bags says:

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that
    can help me. Thank you

  47. golden goose venice shop says:

    Just wanna comment on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the subject material is really good :
    D.

  48. Very nice article. I certainly appreciate this
    site. Continue the good work!

  49. joker123 for pc says:

    I love it whenever people come together and share thoughts.
    Great blog, stick with it!

  50. Real Instagram Followers says:

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *