How many parents don’t care about their child’s ability to succeed and excel in life? Very few, I think. Isn’t it our goal as parents to bring up our child with the values, beliefs and self-esteem they need in order to enable them to meet life’s challenges successfully and with confidence? Yet how many parents worry that their child may not have the skills and tools necessary to accomplish these goals?

These parents feel that they are doing the best they can but worry that there is still something wrong that needs to be fixed so that their child will have higher self-esteem. It is for this reason that I am writing this article, to give you some practical suggestions that you can do right now to help improve your child’s self-esteem. It is never too late to encourage and empower your child!

High self-esteem develops when a child feels that he belongs. He has a sense of feeling important, accepted and valued. When the child grows up feeling lovable and capable; he develops high self-esteem. If he is proud of his accomplishments, he assumes responsibility and is accountable for his actions. He is able to tolerate frustration, have the courage to try new things, sees obstacles as challenges and has compassion and empathy for others.

In order to influence a child to have this self-esteem, the parents need to be able to role model these qualities as well. While none of us are perfect and we all do the best we can, parents are the primary influencer of how their child sees the world and himself.

You are unlikely to find a child with high self-esteem, coming from parents who are critical, angry or impatient. This kind of environment tends to produce children with anxiety, insecurity and self-doubt.. When you have a parent who has not learned the skills to deal with their own frustration, disappointment and impatience, why would you be surprised to find a child who is lacking these same skills?

In order to have a high self-esteem, the child needs to feel it is safe to make mistakes and not feel demeaned or unworthy. This is not to say that the parent should not set limits or give consequences for unacceptable or negative behaviors. That is after all, a parent’s responsibility. It is, however, the manner in which these messages are passed on that dictates whether the child feels corrected or rejected. Most parents do not intentionally want to hurt their child, but few have the communication skills to be able to “parent” without being influenced by their own feelings of lack, frustration or disappointment. These tones and attitudes are what the child hears and translates to mean that he has failed, and this message can have a more devastating effect to the child’s self-esteem than whatever problems were being addressed.
Each child needs to find his own place in the family and in the world. He needs to feel that he is unique and special in some way. He needs to find hobbies, develop skills, or interests that make him feel proud and accomplished. Parents can encourage this uniqueness by helping the child to explore various interests, talents, or hobbies that the child may enjoy.

Tips to building your child’s self-esteem

1. Encourage your child to do his best without expecting perfection. We all make mistakes; all children need to feel that it is safe to make mistakes without feeling they disappointed their parents. Expectations need to be reasonable based on the child’s age and experience.

2. Be consistent. Define limits and rules clearly. Don’t make promises you can’t keep or give consequences that you can’t or won’t follow through with. If your child can’t trust your word, then he will lose respect for you and stop trusting you.

3. Become aware of what you say and how you say it. Discuss problems without placing blame. Children remember what you say about yourself and others and they may in turn repeat the same negatives and criticisms to themselves about themselves. It is much more difficult for a child to maintain a healthy self-esteem if he feels his parents don’t value and respect themselves.

4. Be the example you want to set. Don’t tell your son to stop insulting or bullying his sister, if your partner is doing the same to you.

5. Show your child affection and tell him you love them. One of the things children have asked for when questioned about what they are missing from their parents, was to be told they are loved. You may believe that you child knows this from all the things you buy him, or places you take him, but your child needs to hear it as well..

6. Give your child responsibility. He needs to know that he is an important part of the family and as such has certain responsibilities. It will make your child feel more invested in the family if there are expectations and accountability.

7. Ask your child about his or her interests. Encourage him to acquire hobbies. Ask him about his day. How is school? How are the teachers treating you?? Do you have someone to eat lunch with? These questions will help you to find how your child really is doing at school.
Don’t assume he will tell you if he is unhappy or someone has hurt his feelings. Most children don’t these feelings. They think their parents won’t be able to help them anyway.

8. Don’t compare one sibling with another. Each child is different and has his own unique personality. It’s okay to expect certain behaviours and rules to be respected, but comparing one child to another only breeds resentment and discouragement, it does not inspire.

9. Treat your child with respect. Don’t interrupt him when he is talking, listen attentively, give him eye contact. If you want him to treat you and others with respect, you must model the same behaviours.

10. Give each child some alone time with you. It can be just 15 or 20 minutes, but playing a game with them, or reading them a story or just listening to them talk about what interests them, will be valued by your child and help them to feel special, worthy, and important. Isn’t that how we all want our children to feel?


Author's Bio: 

Rhonda Rabow is a psychotherapist in Montreal. Her website is To receive her free monthly newsletter, go to, email her at or call 514-626-4609.