9 Ways to Build More Self-Esteem in Your Child

Portrait of jumping cool girl with sunglasses

Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images 

Healthy self-esteem is one of the most important characteristics of healthy child development. A child's social, behavioral, and emotional health plays a crucial role in how they handle setbacks, peer pressure, and other challenges throughout life.

Positive self-esteem is also a protective factor for good mental health. Cultivating confidence contributes to positive social behavior and works as a buffer when your child experiences stress and negative situations.

Here are some small but significant ways you can impact your child's self-esteem in a positive way each day.

Know What Healthy Self-Esteem Looks Like

Self-esteem is basically how children see themselves—including what they think of themselves and their ability to do things. It's shaped by how much they feel loved, and how much support and encouragement (or criticism) they receive from important people in their life, like their parents and teachers.

Being self-confident does not mean thinking that the world revolves around you or that your needs are more important than those of other people. Likewise, healthy self-esteem is not arrogance, narcissism, or entitlement. Balance out your child's self-esteem with other important values such as having empathy, being kind, having good manners, being charitable, and having a sense of gratitude.

Show Unconditional Love Every Day

Knowing how much you love them gives your children a sense of security and belonging that is crucial to their view of themselves. Your unconditional love lays the groundwork for all the healthy and strong relationships they will form later in their lives.

So hug your kids when you say goodbye, snuggle together and read a book, and express your love every single day. As your kids grow, this foundation of love will help them as they continue to build their own social circles, make friends, and form bonds with teammates.

Play Together and Have Fun

When you play with your child, it shows them you like spending time with them and you value their company. Just having fun with your child offers numerous benefits for both of you.

Not only do kids develop confidence in their ability to be an interesting and entertaining person who can form solid social bonds, but studies have shown a child's odds of being happy increases and their risk of depression and anxiety decreases when they engage in healthy play.

Building confidence will also help your child navigate a return to school and social activities as vaccinations increase and pandemic restrictions ease. Plus, playing and have fun is a great stress reliever for both of you.

Give Your Child Responsibilities and Chores 

Being responsible for age-appropriate chores gives your child a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Even if they don't do something perfectly, let them know you appreciate their efforts. Praise them for all the things they do well, and reassure them that over time, they'll get better and better at many things, including their chores.

Having chores and responsibilities also gives kids a sense of control over their lives. And in a time when things are unpredictable, having responsibility over small jobs around the house can go a long way in building confidence and resilience.

Encourage Independence

The elementary-school years are a time of fast-growing independence in kids. By the time they reach middle-school age, many children are starting to spend time alone at home, walking to school by themselves, and helping younger siblings.

It's important to allow your kids to grow increasingly more independent: Let them figure out how to talk to teachers about any problems on their own, organize homework assignments, make sure their soccer uniforms are packed and ready, and so on. So-called helicopter parenting undermines kids' abilities to do things on their own and negatively impacts their self-esteem. It also robs them of autonomy.

Keep in mind that your child's school is likely to look a bit different from what they remember from before the pandemic. Some districts will continue certain safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Encourage your kids to advocate for themselves and ask questions when they experience challenges before you intervene. Doing so will build their independence and ultimately their self-esteem.

Refrain From Insulting Your Child 

When your child misbehaves or does something that frustrates you, be sure to separate the behavior from your child. You're human—when your child pushes your buttons, you'll probably be irritated or even angry. Experiencing these feelings is completely normal, but don't engage in name-calling or shame your child.

Instead, talk to your child with respect. Don't yell. Take the emotion out of your discipline. A good way to do this is by using natural and logical consequences, and speaking to your child in a pleasant and friendly tone.

Make Setbacks Learning Experiences

Emphasize the fact that being human means making mistakes and not being perfect. Teach your child to view setbacks as opportunities for improvement and growth.

Be patient with your child when they make mistakes. And, if you find they tend to act out at school or experience behavior problems, do what you can to turn those situations into opportunities for growth. Doing so will help build your child's confidence and show that making mistakes is not the end of the world—as long as they address it in a healthy way.

Watch Technology Use 

In today's environment, most of us, including students and parents, are consistently connected to our devices. Mobile phones, tablets, and laptops allow people to text, post to social media, conduct business, do schoolwork, and check email on a regular basis. Of course, this became especially necessary during the pandemic.

All this connectivity is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's positive because people can be more productive and stay connected to others from the comfort and safety of their homes. But online activity can come at a cost if it interferes with family relationships and communication. Likewise, too much screen time can affect physical activity.

As a family, decide what type of online activity is necessary and what is purely entertainment. Then devise a plan where you all balance your daily screen time with off-screen activities like going for walks, riding bikes, reading, and playing games together.

Let Them Create and Show Off Work

Let your child display their work around the house. When they create artwork, write a story, or put together a project for school, invite your child to tell you about their work. Ask what they want people to think or feel and what they like best about their creations.

Giving children a chance to show off what they make or to talk about the things they create lets them know that their hard work is worthy of attention. It also communicates that their opinions and thoughts matter.

Even if your child is primarily doing all their work at home rather than in school, encourage them to display their work around the house. Doing so builds confidence in their abilities and encourages them to continue working hard on their creative endeavors.

A Word From Verywell

Working to build your child's self-esteem is one of the best ways you can spend your time as a parent. And although it may take a little extra effort sometimes, you will set your kids up for positive self-regard and success now and in the future.

But just as you don't expect your kids to be perfect, don't expect perfection from yourself either. You may not get it right all the time, and that's okay. As long as you're consistently trying to share love and positivity, you are building confidence in them despite a mistake here or there.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mann M, Hosman CM, Schaalma HP, de Vries NK. Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion. Health Educ Res. 2004;19(4):357-72. doi:10.1093/her/cyg041

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Helping your child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem.

  3. Nijhof SL, Vinkers CH, Van Geelen SM, et al. Healthy play, better coping: The importance of play for the development of children in health and disease. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018;95:421-429. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.09.024

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Positive parenting tips.

  5. Parisette-Sparks A, Bufferd SJ, Klein DN. Parental predictors of children's shame and guilt at age 6 in a multimethod, longitudinal studyJ Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2017;46(5):721-731. doi:10.1080/15374416.2015.1063430MLA

  6. Rosen LD, Lim AF, Felt J, et al. Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habitsComput Human Behav. 2014;35:364-375. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.036

  7. Pérez-Fuentes MDC, Molero Jurado MDM, Gázquez Linares JJ, Oropesa Ruiz NF, Simón Márquez MDM, Saracostti M. Parenting practices, life satisfaction, and the role of self-esteem in adolescentsInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(20):4045. doi:10.3390/ijerph16204045

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.