Patients and Families

Building Your Child's Self-Esteem

Self-esteem—a person's sense of worth—is important for success. When children feel confident and secure, they're more likely to succeed in school and achieve personal goals. As they get older, they learn to confront problems and resist peer pressure. More important, having a positive self-image helps a child feel happy and capable of maintaining personal relationships. 

Building children's self-esteem is an ongoing part of parenting. Letting children do things for themselves helps them acquire needed skills. When parents respect their children, the children learn to respect themselves. And when parents show affection, kids learn how to share their feelings with others. 

Parents' actions influence the way children feel about themselves. When a parent holds a child, the child can feel how important he or she is. Parents who can't be with their kids on a daily basis can call them, write them notes or send e-mails. Parents should talk to their kids, listen to what they have to say and show them that their opinions count. 

Children need their parents' unconditional love and support. The love of a parent should not depend on the good behavior of a child. Even as they set limits and enforce discipline, parents should reassure their kids that they love them. Withholding love from kids when they misbehave will make them feel bad about themselves. Parents sometimes tell a misbehaving child, “You're a bad boy (or girl)!” This tells the child that he or she is bad, not the behavior. Instead, parents should explain to the child what he or she did was wrong and then impose a consequence. For example, if the child hit someone, explain that hitting hurts and remove the child from the room. 

Praising children when they behave well makes them feel good and motivates them to continue the good behavior—a win-win situation for parents and children! Parents should praise kids' efforts and their successes. If a child's team loses a game, for example, a parent could say, “You tried hard. You should feel proud of yourself!”

Some people worry that praising kids too much will spoil them. Yet as a child's self-esteem grows, so does his or her sense of responsibility and competence. Assigning chores and praising accomplishments makes children feel valued. Their self-confidence and independence grow, and their increasing sense of security helps them confront the many challenges that are a natural part of growing up. 

Studies show that children who feel confident are better able to stand up to bullies. Parents should give kids the tools they need to stand up for themselves and help them learn to solve problems. As they get older, they will be able to handle difficult situations on their own. 

The way parents interact with their children influences the type of people they become. Nurturing parents who share their love help increase their children's sense of self-worth. Kids learn to feel good about themselves and to care about others. When parents build their Children’s self-esteem, a foundation for a strong, loving relationship is laid.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC offers Positive Parenting classes and other parenting workshops. For more information, call the Community Education Department at 412-692-7105. Current classes are listed on this Web site.

Last Update
September 11, 2008
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Last Update
September 11, 2008
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