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How to build a child’s self-esteem

little girl pointing at herself

Key points:

  1. Children build their self-esteem through experiences and nurturing their confidence.
  2. A is for Appreciation – pay attention to your child’s interests and feelings, and show that you understand and appreciate them.
  3. B is for Being a good role model – model effort, persistence, and teach them about themselves. Let them be who they are and praise their effort.
  4. C is for Confidence – let your child explore and figure things out on their own, even when they get frustrated or scared. This builds their sense of competence and self-worth.

Children build their self-esteem through experiences. When you play with your little one and allow them to be themselves, you are nurturing their confidence. Keep reading to find a step-by-step guide for helping your bundle of joy develop their self-worth.

A is for Appreciation

When your baby is born you are the most fascinating thing in the world for them! That’s why they look at you in such a miraculous and admiring way. Since they are born, your baby starts appreciating what you give them. They appreciate the warmth of your touch, the light in the hallway because they know you are on the way, etc. Your baby is born into the world feeling appreciative.

So, to make them feel appreciated, you must first pay close attention to them. Turn your expectations into appreciations and acknowledge the reality of who they are. What do they enjoy? How are they like? Allowing your little one to find what truly interests them, rather than what everyone else likes, is part of building their own identity. If your child is playing in the sandbox alone it doesn’t mean they are lonely or have low self-esteem; find out what they are doing that intrigues them so much.

Pay attention to their feelings and try to understand what your little one means —positioning yourself in their little shoes. Observe and ask yourself what they might be feeling when you say or do something. Appreciate their feelings, recognize the legitimacy of what they want, and let them know you know that. When your little one feels understood they feel accepted and loved.

B is for Being a good role model


Being a good role model doesn’t mean having to smile all day. Instead teach your little one about effort too. How sometimes we don’t feel like doing a chore, but when we do things in a cheerful manner or at least without complaining and putting our effort into them, we can take pride in a job well done. This is modeling their confidence and persistence.

Find bonding times and let them show and tell you who they are. What do they want to do? Maybe they don’t enjoy soccer, but like to play with building blocks, or maybe they prefer puzzles over stuffed animals. Why is that?

Of course praise your child throughout an activity, but don’t overpraise. Your little one is quite skilled in reading your facial expressions and tone of voice. So, sometimes is better to give them a vote of confidence and praise the effort saying: “It’s okay, everybody has off days, tomorrow will be better”, “I’m proud of you for not giving up!” or “You are getting better and better at this game!”.

Begin to get to know each other in that context of love and respect. When your child feels they can be themselves, they build confidence in who they are.

C is for Confidence

Nurture moments to let your child feel proud about themselves. Letting them be the source of their own mastery will build their confidence and self-esteem.

Let them explore freely while you set limits in the environment. There’s nothing more fascinating for your child than to get to know new things; from learning how to hold a block to knowing the name of the shapes and colors. They want to know how things work, so let them figure it out by themselves.

Don’t skip the challenges where they might get frustrated or scared. There will be situations where you will want to fulfill their needs right away, but try showing them the way and letting them be the protagonist of the story. For example, if your little one is at that stage where they want to crawl everywhere and they seem to find themselves under a table and don’t know how to get out, instead of taking them out yourself, show them how: “It’s okay, just lower your head and come to me, like this”. They will come out of that table with a smile from ear to ear, feeling competent and not afraid of getting in those types of situations again. Comforting them and helping them find their own way allows them to tune in to people, tolerate frustration, and manage emotions and impulses.

These are opportunities where your child is figuring stuff out on their own and building their sense of competence and self-worth. This is what your little one is going to need later on to be able to get through the sad, scary parts of life as well. Keep helping your little one build their self-esteem and express themselves!

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