Low self-esteem can affect children of all ages and can manifest in many ways, from a lack of confidence to social withdrawal. As a parent, it's natural to want to help your child build a strong sense of self-worth, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, there are a number of strategies you can use to support your child in building healthy self-esteem.

Praise effort, not just results
It's easy to fall into the trap of only praising your child when they achieve something significant, such as winning a game or getting top marks on a test. However, this can send the message that their worth is tied to their achievements. Instead, try to praise the effort they put into something, regardless of the outcome. This can help your child understand that it's okay to make mistakes and that hard work is valuable in its own right. Research shows that praising effort rather than ability can lead to increased persistence and motivation in children (Dweck, 2007).

Encourage exploration and risk-taking
Children with low self-esteem may be hesitant to try new things or take risks because they fear failure or judgment. Encouraging your child to explore new hobbies, activities, or challenges can help them develop a growth mindset, which is the belief that their abilities can be improved through effort and practice. Research shows that children who develop a growth mindset are more likely to view challenges as opportunities for growth, have higher self-esteem, and are more resilient in the face of setbacks (Yeager et al., 2019).

Be a positive role model
Children often model their behavior and attitudes after their parents or caregivers. Being mindful of your own self-talk and attitudes can help you model healthy self-esteem for your child. Try to avoid negative self-talk and instead focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Research shows that parents who exhibit healthy self-esteem are more likely to have children with healthy self-esteem (Harter, 2012).

Provide opportunities for social connection
Social support is an important factor in building self-esteem, particularly for children. Encouraging your child to spend time with friends and participate in social activities can help them feel connected and valued. Research shows that children who have strong social connections are less likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety (Heinrich & Gullone, 2006).

Seek professional help if needed
If your child is experiencing persistent low self-esteem or other mental health issues, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can work with your child to develop coping skills, build self-esteem, and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to their low self-esteem.

In summary, helping your child build healthy self-esteem is a process that involves praising effort, encouraging exploration, modeling healthy self-esteem, providing opportunities for social connection, and seeking professional help if needed. By taking these steps, you can support your child in developing a strong sense of self-worth and resilience that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). The perils and promises of praise. Educational Leadership, 65(2), 34-39. Harter, S. (2012). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. Guilford Press. Heinrich, L. M., & Gullone, E. (2006). The clinical significance of loneliness: A literature review. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(6), 695-718. Yeager, D. S., Romero, C., Paunesku, D., Hulleman, C. S., Schneider, B., Hinojosa,