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Oregon Family Magazine

Fostering Self-Esteem in Kids

01/04/2022 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Building our children’s self-esteem is one of the most important tasks we have as parents. As a pediatrician for over 25 years, and a mom of four kids ranging in age from 9 to 23 years, here are my suggestions on how you can help your child feel good about themselves:

Praise wisely: Studies show that over-praising your child or praising the wrong attributes and characteristics can do more harm than good. When your child does something well, show your support with hugs and high fives, and praise their effort more than the outcome. For example, if their soccer team wins the tournament, compliment them for how hard they worked, rather than the fact that their team won. Never push a child to be perfect or “the best.”

Encourage your child’s interests: It’s important for kids to feel that they are good at something, whatever that might be. Support them in trying a variety of activities to find something they enjoy. That way, if they encounter difficulty in school, they can identify as more than just a student and know they have a talent or an interest that they can feel great about.

Encourage your child to take healthy risks and celebrate failure. If your child is into theater, encourage them to audition. If they like sports, encourage them to try out for the team. If they don’t get the leading role or make the cut, help them feel proud of their efforts and remind them that there will always be another opportunity. Impress upon your child that life’s greatest lessons and even greater strength comes from how we respond to disappointments and failures. 

Give kids chores: Being part of a family that works together builds self-esteem. Assign your child one daily chore for each year of age, so a 3-year-old might be asked to pick up toys, clear their plate from the table and help feed the cat. Add an additional chore each year and by the time your children are teens, they will feel confident in doing their part to support the family.

Avoid harsh words: Don’t yell or criticize your kids. You are their role model. They value your opinion, and your words can lift them up or wound them deeply. 

Love your kids unconditionally: No matter how children do in school, in extracurricular activities or in life, the one thing they need from you more than anything is LOVE. No strings attached. If they know you love them no matter what, they will love themselves, too. 

If you have concerns about your child’s self-esteem, or need additional parenting support, talk with your pediatrician.