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children with good self esteem

What is Self Esteem?

It is stated in the book Your Child’s Self Esteem by Dorothy Briggs that " self-esteem is the mainspring that slates every child for success or failure as a human being." Children's self esteem starts to form at an early age and continuously forms throughout their lives.

Self Esteem comes from learning to accept one's flaws but still choosing to like one selves, believe in one selves, feel worthwhile and knowing that one can handle life well. Self Esteem is the foundation for good emotional and mental health. Good self esteem gives the child confidence to try new things , persevere with things they may not be good at and never give up when faced with challenges. This is why self esteem is an important part of child development. Therefore, it is crucial for every adult to build and affirm a child's self esteem.

Self Esteem at Different Stages of Child Development


Young babies do not have the theory of mind thus they don't have any self esteem yet. However, it is still important to lay the foundations for healthy self esteem through showing love :

  • Caring for the baby's basic needs.

  • Responding when the baby cries

  • Provide warmth interactions such as cuddles and smiles


Toddlerhood is where self esteem starts to form as a toddler starts to develop an understanding of themselves. Start building their self esteem through :

  • Letting them have the autonomy to decide from options. For examples, what toys to pay with or what to eat for a meal etc. Giving them a sense of control can help them to develop a sense of self.

  • Providing them the space to say 'No'. This teaches the toddler to assert, make decisions and learn consequences for themselves.

  • Allowing your child explore their environment, but be ready to catch them when they fall. Responding to them when they need you shows that 'it's okay, they can try again!'.

  • Coach child through tricky social situations such as learning to share.


Pre-schoolers tend to have more self awareness and compare themselves with others at this age.

This is a good time to nurture their self esteem and self worth by :

  • Providing the child feedback by praises and reinforcements when they give things a go, do their best or try something new. They don't need to be the best to be encouraged.

  • Debrief that losing is a part of life. This helps to build good sportsmanship in a long run.

  • Engage in cooperative games to learn to take turns. They can learn social skills and confidence to interact with others.

  • Invest in your child's interest. Spending time with your child in their favourite activities can motivate their interests.

School Aged Children

At school, the child's self esteem may be affected by their appearance, academic performance, talents and social relationships. Facing challenges in school can negatively influence their self esteem. Thus, it is vital for them to learnt that they don't need to be perfect or capable to be loved and valued. Some practical ways parents can try are :

  • Give warm encouragements at the end of the school day either physically or verbally.

  • Acknowledge their effort and courage to try new difficult or new things.

  • Encourage them to try again if they fail.

  • Be involve in their school life and foster a good relationship with the school.

  • Let the child be connected to their loved ones. Family rituals or gatherings help the child to feel a sense of belonging.

If you have tried the above and your child still struggles with poor self esteem, do seek out for professional help and intervention.

Written by,

Kee Joey

Clinical Psychologist


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