Weatherford Democrat

May 18, 2014

EXTENSION NEWS: Helping your children build self-esteem

Weatherford Democrat


Self-esteem can be important in order to be happy and successful in life. A person who has talents that help them achieve, yet lacks self-esteem, can become a major road block in being successful in a relationship, job and almost everything.

Helping children develop a healthy self-esteem is considered by many experts to be one of the most important responsibilities of raising children. It is commonly thought that if parents can bolster their children’s self-esteem at a young age, they will more likely be able to successfully navigate the challenges of life. 

Children can have a healthy or an unhealthy self-esteem. Children with a healthy self-esteem place value on themselves that is both positive and at the same time realistic. They can handle a reasonable amount of negative experience and information. Self-esteem for the very young is based on feelings of being loved and being accepted by their parents. As children grow, self-esteem becomes a product of feelings derived from evaluating oneself against others such as school performance and physical attractiveness. Children with healthy self-esteem tend to be happier and more confident. They get along with their peers and accept their strengths and weaknesses and are able to work toward solutions when faced with challenges. When they do fail, they tend to bounce back.

Parents, grandparents and caregivers are uniquely positioned to influence and shape their children’s self-esteem. The time spent with children and the natural interactions enable them to instill in their child a sense of personal worth and competence. Here are some strategies that are suggested by Dr. Stephen Green, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialist:

• Lay the groundwork when your child is young. Loving and properly caring for your children gives them the feeling of being loved, accepted and valued.

• Recognize the influence of your child’s peer group. Parents are the primary influence, but when they get older their peers take an increasing role. Help children recognize what authentic self-esteem is and that it is not dependent on money, clothing and physical characteristics.

• Respond to your child’s interest and efforts with appreciation rather than just praise. Children thrive on encouragement. Each child can have their own unique interest in a topic whether it is music, sports, animals, art, etc. Treat these interests seriously.

• Engage your children in a variety of tasks and activities that offer your children a real challenge. Activities need to be successful in their range ability. However, don’t ask your children to complete tasks that are beyond their abilities that can lead to frustrations and failure. Also, don’t engage your children in activities that are too easy as it can hinder their ability. 

• Help your children cope with occasional negative feedback and frustrations. It is important for children to experience success, but it is equally important for children to experience and learn how to cope with negative feedback and frustrations. Communicate that success in everything is not possible and that we all experience disappointment at times. Share examples with your children and help them cope.

• Avoid excessive and harsh criticism. Children need to be esteemed by parents. They need to be shown that they are valued and respected. At the same time, your children need to be corrected when they engage in behaviors that are inappropriate.

• Model for your children a healthy self-esteem. Children are influenced by parents and it is important for you to model these healthy qualities of self-esteem on a regular basis. Teach them also that you consider the feelings of others to be as important as your own.