Self Esteem – The Spice and Yeast of Childhood

How Adults Can Foster Self-respect and Respect for Others.

Uncertain Child - Jacob Romero 

Uncertain Child – Jacob Romero

Build self-esteem by positive feedback, clear directives, humor, showing faith in your child, correcting behaviors instead of the child, and learning from mistakes.

Teaching children self-respect and respect for others is one thing you can do for your child which outranks all others. Much of a parent’s mental effort is spent on providing the best in nutrition, clothes, health, status, education and other amenities for their offspring. Yet parents can also foster self-esteem in their children.

Instilling self-esteem is a process. It is like greenware in ceramics — it is very fragile while it is being formed. That process takes years and is the most vital product of childhood. Success in adult life is statistically linked more to self-confidence than any other skill, bar none.

Foster Self-Respect in your Child

It is an awesome thought that adults are in charge of nurturing this most fragile part of a child. Fostering self-respect and self-worth are prerequisites to being able to function in the greater world where respecting and working with others in one’s environment is necessary for survival.

Give More Positive than Negative Feedback

Notice that children use the significant adults in their lives as a mirror — helping them see where or not, and how much, they should esteem themselves. There is a sense of proportion that families would be well-advised to observe in dealing out positive and negative cards toward a child.

For every five positives you can afford an honest negative (e.g. correction, anger, criticism). If this ratio is maintained, children can come to view themselves as more positive than negative.

This feeling of being mostly good also allows for more honesty with oneself and others about weaknesses. Such inward integrity is a key agent in accomplishing self-improvement versus avoidance and defensiveness so often seen when growth is really needed.

A word of caution is needed about how the negatives can be most effective toward behavior change, which is the primary goal. Write down what you would say, let it sit a while, then reword it to make it carry less criticism or negative connotations.

Give Clear, Positive Discipline and Directives to Your Child

You might consider telling a child what to do rather than what not to do. (“Please put that book on the table, sir.” rather than “Stop putting the book on your head!”) Such a change in wording changes the whole meaning from correctional to informational. Children need such clear structure. Of course, you need to mean it if you say it. This is where assertive parenting can help.

Show Faith in your Child

Try telling children you know they won’t give up because you really believe in them. Clarify they have impressed you before and you are willing to bet they will keep amazing you. Of course, sincerity is the key ingredient here; they know when adults are faking it.

Consider that children get discouraged, more than any other time, when they’re doing poorly. This is why adults need to help a child make a mental ‘bridge’ from a former success to the current situation.

Remind your child that you know it seems hard now. But focus on another time when “you thought you couldn’t and you came through.” This works much better with a hug, smile, touch, or similar expression of comfortable confidence and care on your part.

Correct the Behavior, Not the Child

Clarity of communication is important when using corrective language in order to separate the behavior from the person. Avoid comments when denote that the child is bad, in favor of statements declaring that the behavior is bad. Correct the behavior, but honor the person.

Express how the unacceptable behavior makes you feel, using I statements. Putting it in such terms takes the spotlight off so that, instead of feeling judged, the child can concentrate on adjusting the behavior.

Children will go to great lengths to please. Make this axiom work for you by keeping in mind that the reward is often the reason. Be generous with rewards and praise.

When a child already has a diminished self-esteem, just telling how good he or she is won’t go far enough. Teach the child a new skill (perhaps one the child thinks can’t be done) and then be overheard saying all kinds of compliments about how well the child did on that endeavor.

This is far more believable than a simple pat on the back, although that is also helpful. The child has an added bonus of knowing they earned the praise.

Three more Things Adults Can Do to Raise Children’s Self-esteem

• Use humor when you make mistakes or struggle, and do the same when the child fumbles–but in a sensitive way, pointing out what’s funny and chuckling with but not at.

• Remind your child to learn from mistakes, especially if we don’t wallow in them. Mistakes are the stairways to the stars. Use this concept at that awkward moment when a child feels stupid. Look how the mistakes from early space probes finally helped us learn enough to reach the moon and beyond.

• Make a plan and follow through. Write it down. Keep track. Pat yourself on the back as you develop new skills along with your child. And don’t forget the smell the roses more than you scorn the thorns.

You can teach your child self-respect by giving more positive than negative feedback, using clear and positive directives, showing faith in your child, critique behaviors not the child, using humor, learning from mistakes, and making a plan with follow through.

You’ll smile as you notice that you’re improving your child’s self-esteem by teaching faith, hope, and confidence.


Do Motives Matter?

(A myth in our society says, “If  you don’t mean to, it’s OK.)

You don’t have to have bad motives to hurt a kid!

Sincere but misguided efforts can push a student on through the net of learning, turning burning desire into a child in the fire of failure.

An example is running over a person.  They’re equally injured whether you “meant to” or not.  (This concept applies to both children and adults!)

Words can break thy bones – especially from significant people.  Treat words as a loaded weapon.  They are just that!


Copyright Hildra Tague. First published in part at
Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.


About grantutor

Career educator in both public and private schools. Has tutored all ages. Writes about education, parenting, & seniors. Sings harmony with folk/rock group and a choir. Caregiver for spouse who dealt with Stage IV cancer. Happy person committed to nature and conservation of a green world.
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3 Responses to Self Esteem – The Spice and Yeast of Childhood

  1. Pingback: Stop Bullying – Work With Children for Intervention and Prevention | Hildra Tague's Celebrations of Learning Blog

  2. Pingback: Understanding Children Who Learn Differently | Hildra Tague's Celebrations of Learning Blog

  3. Pingback: Educational Issues: The Kids Who Fall Out of The Net | Hildra Tague's Celebrations of Learning Blog

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