Developing children’s self-esteem


Everyone agrees that self-esteem is essential, but do we really know what exactly it is? And how can we improve it in our children?

Self-esteem is the value you have for yourself. It is different from self-confidence in the sense that self-confidence is the belief in one’s own abilities to overcome a given situation.

Development of self-esteem

The baby, from the beginning, depends on his parents for his survival, not only for his physical needs but also for his emotional needs. This relationship of attachment and fusion will become a secure base for the baby to explore the environment. It is the beginning of the discovery of oneself, of the world and gradually of oneself in the world. Through behavioral, emotional and imaginary interactions between parents and the baby, they will allow him to discover himself, become independent and gain confidence in him to reach out to others.

Thus, by understanding and managing his emotions, by improving his relationship with himself and others and by developing in a coherent way to his capacities, the child will be able to benefit from a good self-esteem.

Children who have high self-esteem do not need to please others at all costs, are not vulnerable of what others think of them. They are able to join in an activity regardless of the approval or praise of others or the outcome. A child with low self-esteem will be more sensitive to acceptance, will have few friends, will be easily frustrated, discouraged and will always try to please others even if that goes against what he is.

What can you do to build your children’s self-esteem?

  • Value your children’s efforts and successes. But keep in mind: the effort remains greater than the result.
  • Help your children recognize their strengths. You don’t always have to compliment them, but when they do something well or finds solutions to a problem by themselves, point it out so they become aware of it.
  • Discuss with them their limits and difficulties, but encourage them to improve. Highlight their progress or the efforts they are making to achieve their goals.
  • Give your children choices and a chance to solve problems, depending on their age and the stage they are in, so they can learn to control their life.
  • Don’t hesitate to tell your children that a mistake is not a failure. Reflect with them on how to do better next time.
  • Give your children responsibilities and opportunities, appropriate to their age, to participate in everyday life. That will make them feel important.
  • Spend quality time with your children. Whenever you spend time with them and pay attention to, they will understand that they are of value to you.
  • Show your children that you love them, the way they are, unconditionally, not for what they do or for their appearances.
  • Let your children express their emotions and thoughts.How to Develop children’s self-esteem?
  • Help your children find an activity they like and do well. Understand and respect the fact that they will be very good in some activities, but not in others. Avoid humiliating or demeaning them if it doesn’t work.
  • Encourage them to make decisions. For example, let them choose their clothes for the day.
  • Let your children take healthy risks: Too many parents try to protect their children from all risks of failure by thinking that they are acting for their own good, but this is not the case.
  • Be realistic in your expectations of your children.

Behaviors to Avoid

• Protection instead overprotection: Avoid overprotecting your children, because not only would you prevent them from learning, but you would send them the wrong message: in that way, they might believe that they are incapable, that they should not be trusted.

• Do not constantly criticize them. If you always make negative comments to your children, and if, despite their efforts, you are dissatisfied with their work or their behavior, they will be discouraged. Even if it’s not perfect, praise them. From time to time, when you are alone with them, you can gently show them what they can do better.

• If your children are not acting properly, focus on the behavior rather than the person. For example, you can tell them that their gesture was not nice instead of saying that they “as a person” were not nice.

• Avoid reprimanding them in public: Public reproaches are sometimes humiliating for the children who, in addition to assuming your disapproval, have to deal with the gaze of others.

• Always be respectful to your children. What you say to them has a lot of impact on their self-image. Do not insult them, do not shout, do not laugh at them. It can be very hurtful for them and will affect badly their self-esteem.

• Take an interest in your children and what they are doing. Don’t ignore them. You are still the center of their universe. The attention you give, matters a lot to them.

• Don’t be too demanding. Having very high expectations from your children can affect their confidence. They are still young and constantly learning. Therefor be realistic in your requests.

• Do not compare them with their siblings or other children of their age. Compare them to their own selves by highlighting their progress.

Be an Example, Improve yourself to better help your children

Your children still learn a lot by imitating you. Show your children what it is like to love yourself, and be willing to try new things and show them how to deal with setbacks and hardships. Show them the virtues of patience, persistence and doing things the best you can.

When should I contact a specialist?

It is normal for children to have symptoms of low self-esteem from time to time. However, if these symptoms persist for several weeks and are accompanied by a pessimistic attitude and an increasingly moody, it may be appropriate to consult a psychologist in order to help you put in place strategies allowing them to improve their self-esteem.


Asma Geitany

Clinical Psychologist in Dubai

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