11 little ways parents can encourage their children to build self-esteem

Five. That’s the average age children establish their self-esteem.

And that’s not just a guesstimate – it’s actually been proven by science:

In 2015, researchers discovered that as young as they may be, preschoolers already have a positive or negative view of themselves. 

So how do we, as parents, ensure that our kids thrive and grow up feeling good about themselves? 

Remember that all children are different. Some develop self-esteem quickly, while some struggle with it. 

But if you’re wanting to explore some ways of enhancing this in your kids, have a go at these 11 little ways parents can encourage their children to build self-esteem:

1) Practice positive affirmations

When our youngest was around 4, she asked about affirmations after hearing it from a podcast I was listening to. 

I felt the best way to explain this was by showing her how it’s done. 

We started with only five affirmations:

“I am important. I am loved. I am kind. I am beautiful. I am smart.” 

I know, I know. She’s my daughter, so I’m biased, but I genuinely believe she is all of these, and I wanted her to affirm that to herself, too. 

We kept adding more, with each affirmation a response to something she goes through.

Like when she first attended kindergarten and initially struggled to find friends:

Maybe it’s because she wasn’t used to being around so many kids, or she started midyear when all the kids would have already established their own “circle.”

But whatever the reason may be, we worked on adding “I am friendly” to her list of affirmations. Eventually, she made friends with everyone at kindy and even settled into a core group. 

A proud moment was when a new child started a few months after her, and she told us, “I played with her because I am friendly.” 

You see, you may think they’re just kids, but affirmations work best on them because their minds are yet to be corrupted by the negativity from the outside world. 

Now she’s 5 and has nearly 20 affirmations and a routine of reciting 10 of them before hopping out of bed in the morning.

Try it, and see how it goes.

2) Help them think and grow rich

I may have taught our youngest the use of affirmations, but I failed to do this with our eldest. 

I’ve only learned about the power of affirmations myself in the past few years, so our teenager missed out on that big time.

But I didn’t think it was too late. 

Again, thanks to another podcast, we learned about the book, Think and Grow Rich. If you haven’t read it, it’s basically about the power of your mindset to help you achieve your goals.

So what did this mumma do? 

I bought him the book – and a blank journal for him to use as a canvas to put into writing anything he wants to manifest in his life. 

Believe it or not, my now 15-year-old teenage son uses both to this day. 

And how do I know it works? 

I hear him occasionally tell his sister, “Believe it will happen, and it will,” or “You can do anything you want to do.”

I’m not saying buy your kids the book. 

The point is to build their self-esteem by setting your childrens’ mindset up for success.

Do not put limits on what they can do.

Instead, teach them that if they work on it and have a positive mindset, they’re powerful enough to achieve whatever they set their mind to. 

3) Let them decide on their OOTD

From the philosophical affirmations and mindsets, let’s move on to more practical tips, shall we? 

Let’s start with letting your child pick what they want to wear.

By doing this, you’re encouraging not only their creativity but you’re also promoting body positivity. Because when you allow them to wear clothes they’re comfortable in, they learn to accept and love their body as it is.

And here’s the best part:

When they get compliments (trust me they will) – not only from you but even from strangers –  it gives them a major boost in self-esteem. 

You may not hear it, but their adorable little minds would be thinking:

“I picked this. I’m good at styling myself.”

4) Make them work

This one benefits both us parents and the kids, so hear me out:

Give the children age-appropriate chores

Teenagers might hate it, and little ones may treat it as pretend play but just do it.

Because when you do, it makes them feel important because you’re essentially making them a contributing (therefore, invaluable) family member.

Plus, succeeding at these chores will also enhance their self-esteem because they’re proving to themselves and to the rest of the family that they’re good at doing “grown-up” things, too. 

5) Give them spending money

ways parents encourage children self esteem 1 11 little ways parents can encourage their children to build self-esteem

Whether collected from chores or pocket money, give your little ones money to spend on their own.

Here’s why:

You’re making them feel capable, you’re giving them control over their choices, and allowing them to budget and problem-solve. When kids see that they can handle these adult-like responsibilities, it turns their self-esteem up a notch.

But a gentle warning from a parent to another:

Pack heaps of patience when you do this. The last time we did, it took us almost 3 hours of back-and-forth before our youngest finally decided what to get with her $10. 

But hey, it was all fun, a good few hours of quality time, maths lessons, and thousands of steps on the pedometer!

Give it a go and watch the look on your kids’ faces when they manage to squeeze in a lot on their budget. Have your cameras ready because, believe me, it’s priceless!

6) Be their cheerleader

This probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway:

Cheer your kids on – ALL THE TIME!

Whether it has something to do with their behavior, school, sports, or other extracurricular activities, be the proudest person when it comes to the feat of your child.

Because how can you expect them to be proud and think positively of themselves when their parents can’t?

7) Celebrate their effort

When I said to always be your children’s number one fan, I meant it.

It’s not always rainbows and unicorns, but it’s always your job as their parent to cheer them on.

They may fail at something they really love doing. Or they can also change their mind about their chosen activity. 

In these situations, it’s still your job to be their cheerleader. It may have cost you money and time, and you may feel disappointed, but they don’t need to hear that.

All they need to hear is, “I’m proud of you for trying.”

When you say this, it lifts their self-esteem, knowing that the effort counts and that sometimes it’s okay to make the wrong choices.

8) Let them fall on your own watch

I get it. As parents, the last thing we want is for our kids to fall and get hurt. But my husband taught me a valuable lesson on this:

We were at the playground, and I was just about to run to our daughter, who was about to fall, trying to climb the mini rock wall. My husband stopped me and said, “It’s not too high; let her fall and learn to get back up again.”

It was hard, but I listened. And true enough, our little ninja fell, looked at us for a moment but then tried again. It took her a few falls before she eventually reached the top. And she did another round to the top – again, and again, and again.

At that time, I was also reminded of hubby took the time teaching our eldest to ride the bike. It took a few falls (and a lot of scratches), but he eventually got it.

That day, I learned what I should’ve already known: 

Kids will feel more confident in themselves when you allow breathing space for mistakes and let them figure it out and overcome them on their own.

9) Let them cry

They won’t always be tough when they fail. Sometimes, there will be tears involved.

And when that happens, don’t stop them. When you tell them it’s okay to cry, you’re helping them understand at an early age that their emotions are acceptable – and valid. 

When you’re there to hug them and let them know that it’s okay to feel what they do, you’re instilling in them that they will always be loved and cared for – no matter how vulnerable they may be. 

10) Drill in them your unconditional love

parents again 11 little ways parents can encourage their children to build self-esteem

Like I just said, tell them you’ll always love them no matter what. But allow me to add a few more blurbs on this:

Kids will inevitably do something wrong, and when they do, it’s our natural reflex as parents to tell them off and give them some form of punishment. 

But whether you choose timeouts or grounding or some other form of disciplining, please don’t forget to do this:

The moment the punishment is over, talk it out with them. Remind them why you did what you did but emphasise that you were angry at their action, not at them. 

You may become angry, disappointed, hurt by some of their behaviors, but it’s important to stress that you will always love, be happy with, and be proud of THEM. 

Distinguish between the person and the action.

Doing this will give them emotional security, an essential part of healthy self-esteem. 

But that’s not all:

When you treat them with kindness and compassion despite their actions, they will also learn to be kinder to themselves whenever they make mistakes.

11) Remind them that they’re beautiful inside and out

When you tell them they’re beautiful inside and out, it’s like saying, “What you are on the inside counts.”

Why does this matter?

We live in a society where the standard of “beauty”  changes constantly. But the measure of having a beautiful heart remains the same across centuries.

So when it’s imprinted in them that they’re beautiful on the inside, they will always hold positive self-worth, no matter how the modern world views their external appearance.

Your kids’ self-esteem starts with you

You can do all these tips and more but let’s face it:

You can’t expect your kids to have half a healthy level of self-esteem if they can’t see this in you. So be their role model of positive self-esteem.

That means sharing your struggles, too. Talk about your mistakes, your flaws, your fears, your emotions. 

Help them understand that you’re not perfect, and so are they, but that doesn’t diminish who you are.

Show them that imperfections shouldn’t hold them back from having strong self-worth and a healthy and positive self-image.  

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah is a full-time mum, wife, and nurse on hiatus turned freelance writer. She is on a journey of diving deeper into life through life itself and uses her writing to share the lessons learned along the way. When not on her computer, she enjoys time with her family strolling along the Gold Coast's stunning beaches and captivating hinterland.

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