A Game to Boost Your Child's Self-Esteem

Schoolchildren (4-5) smiling, close-up after a compliment
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The idea of any effort to boost self-esteem is to increase one's feeling of self-worth, rather than to make them feel "better than" others. One example of this type of activity is an interactive game known as "catch the compliment." This quick-and easy-game helps kids learn to recognize positive qualities in others and gives them the opportunity to hear positive things about themselves too.

How Games Can Boost Self-Esteem

Self-esteem does not only stem from winning or accomplishing something. In fact, teaching kids to learn to live with failure helps to build empathy, the cornerstone of emotional intelligence (EIQ), which is positively associated with confidence in one's own worth and abilities.

Giving and receiving compliments is important for developing self-esteem as well. Doing so fosters and reinforces positive beliefs about one's self in a child and helps them understand that everyone has their own unique strengths that make them special.

One to Try: "Catch the Compliment"

"Catch the compliment" is a self-esteem boosting game designed to help kids think positively about themselves and others, not to build a sense of entitlement. It demonstrates how being loved simply for who you are is what truly matters, and that one's value is not dependent on meeting the expectations of others.

The easy-to-learn game can be played with people of all ages. All you need is yourself, your child, and as many other people you wish to involve.

What You Need

  • An indoor or outdoor play space large enough to accommodate the players (make sure no breakables are nearby)
  • Soft, lightweight balls (various sizes—e.g., beach balls, foam balls, playground balls)

How to Play

  1. Gather the players into a circle.
  2. Players take turns tossing one ball to different players in the circle. As each toss is made, the tossing player gives the receiving player a compliment.
  3. The receiving player then tosses the ball to someone else, again, giving a compliment as the ball is released.
  4. If desired, gradually add more balls as play continues. This will increase the pace and the level of challenge to players as they try to think of compliments to give.
  5. At the end of the game, take time to ask players what the hardest, easiest, and funniest aspects of the game were for them. Ask players to explain what they had to do to be successful at the game. You will find that listening, looking, thinking, and other skills will be mentioned.

Tip for Grown-Ups

As an adult playing this game with your child, try to find compliments that truly fit with your child's personality. For example, don't praise your child for her spelling if she can't spell a single word correctly. Kids can tell the difference between false and real praise, and the former can end up doing the opposite of what it intends.

Make It Your Own

One of the advantages of this game is that you can add new rules or twists in any way you like. Perhaps add a round in which the kids have to give themselves a compliment. Then try a round in which they have to say something good or funny about the adults in their midst.

Once you have the children talking in this way you can go virtually anywhere with the game. Perhaps best of all, having children come up with their own ideas is itself, a self-esteem booster.

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  • Nemours Foundation. Your Child's Self-Esteem. Kidshealth.org. July 2018. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html