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Self-esteem and Positive Self Talk for Kids and Teens

Jennifer Martin, Social Media Intern

Self-esteem describes the way someone feels or thinks about themselves. It is about how someone perceives their worth, who they are as individuals and what they are capable of.  If someone has high self-esteem, generally they feel more confident, happy, and capable of pursuing new challenges and experiences. Low self-esteem can produce the opposite result where a person will have self-doubt and are overly critical of themselves. A person with low self-esteem may avoid attempting to try new things or avoid difficult situations. Resiliency from failure or setbacks is often dictated by a person’s self-esteem and those who lack it, tend to have a more difficult time bouncing back from them. 

It is important to remember that self-esteem is not an indicator of a person’s ability to do certain things and be successful in life, however, it can end up dictating how a person behaves and what moves they make in life to achieve success. Because self-esteem is formed over the lifespan and is usually related to experiences and upbringing, it is important to foster children’s’ self-esteem from an early age to ensure that they have the confidence to pursue their goals. Self-esteem can be improved at any time and at any age so whether you have a young child who is just developing, or a teenager who may currently be struggling with self-esteem, it is not too late to turn this around.

Parents and caretakers are among the greatest influences on a child’s self-esteem. There are many ways that parents can help build their child’s self-esteem as they are growing.  Parents and caretakers can begin to help build up their child’s self esteem by helping and encouraging them to learn how to do things that are part of daily living such as how to brush their teeth, get dressed on their own, and even begin showing them how to do chores around the house. When you teach a child new things, they will learn what the feeling of accomplishment is with completion and mastery of each new task. As children get older, the things you teach them can advance in difficult and complexity but continue to challenge them and allow them to feel the sense of accomplishment that helps boost their self-esteem. 

Demonstrate the tasks you are asking the child to complete. By modeling the activity, it allows the child to see the different steps to complete the task and what the end result will look like. Allow them to make attempts and mistakes as part of the learning process. Also, be sure to challenge them in a way that is not too easy, and not too difficult at first. Being a good role model to your child will go a long way as well and can send the message that it is alright to make mistakes, and to keep working towards the goal. You can set a good example for your children by the attitude you display throughout the day and how you overcome difficulties as well. 

Giving praise to a child is also another component of improving their self-esteem but this should be done carefully. It feels really good to be praised when we do something great, even as adults. When we overcome a difficult situation or complete a difficult or timely task and are proud to show off the results of our hard work, receiving praise is not only reassuring to us, but makes us feel good. However, think of a time where you did something that you know might not have been your best work. Maybe you rushed through something just to get it done but ended up receiving high praise anyway that you know was a bit disingenuous and felt fake or forced. This does nothing for our self-esteem, and instead, can make us feel worse.  It is the same when we praise kids in this way. Another way that excessive praise can backfire is by sending the message that a bare minimum attempt at something is getting rewarded and this can discourage them from improving on or excelling in the future when completing similar or more challenging tasks.  One of the best ways to praise your child is by focusing on the efforts they put into whatever it is they were doing. When you praise how hard they worked, it lets them know that working hard and sticking to something, even if it is challenging, is something to be celebrated in it of itself. It is certainly alright to praise the final outcome of a task as well but letting them know along the way that you are proud of them working towards their goals and overcoming obstacles is very important and that encouragement will be beneficial in raising their self-esteem. 

Teaching children how to speak to themselves is another component to building their self-esteem. Correcting negative self-talk and encouraging positive self-talk is something valuable for children at any age. Positive affirmations can be used daily and are a great way to increase feelings of self-worth, self-love, and confidence. 

 For more information and resources on improving self-esteem in kids and teens, please visit the following websites:

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