Building Self-Confidence in Children with Self-Esteem Activities

When was the last time you yelled, screamed, criticized or punished your child? When did you last hug, encourage, praise or say “thank you” to your child? If these parenting behaviors were placed on a weight scale side-by-side, what would the results be in determining how you fare in building healthy self-esteem vs. low self-esteem in your children? What would your self-esteem look like if roles were reversed and you were the child being parented by someone just like you?

Parents may not think about or realize how their words and actions impact their children’s self-worth, their ability to feel good about themselves, and how it follows children well into adulthood. The overall independence, happiness and success of children depends largely on parents building healthy self-esteem in their children and teens.

Family communication research confirms that parents spend very little time actually communicating with their children, and when parents do speak to their child it is most often to complain, criticize or reprimand them for something they’ve done wrong. Studies show that younger children are often criticized and yelled at throughout the day, whereas older children and teens report receiving more encouragement and praise as they got older. Something is terribly wrong with that.

In a previous article, I talked about the importance of building self-esteem in children by considering how they view the world through their young eyes and ears, keeping in mind the importance of giving loving encouragement and genuine praise to children. Promoting self-confidence in children means that parents must evaluate and re-evaluate their parenting style, making needed changes and improvements in order for their children to grow up feeling loved, appreciated and wanted.

Young children tend to hear things like:

  • No!
  • Put that down!
  • Stop doing that!
  • Stop hitting your sister!
  • Don’t throw the ball in the house!
  • If you do that one more time I’m going to…!

Parents need to look for opportunities and situations to encourage and genuinely praise children when they are cooperating, being nice to their brother or sister, helping with household chores, following the rules or just being good, remembering not to expect perfection with each task.

  • I like the way you helped set the table for dinner.
  • Thank you for playing nicely with your sister/brother.
  • I appreciate how you picked up your toys and put them away.
  • I like the way you made your bed all by yourself.
  • Thank you for helping me fold the laundry.
  • I appreciate how well you behaved at the store today.

Promote self-confidence in children by teaching them positive Self-Talk. Psychologists have found that negative self-talk causes depression and anxiety in children, so it’s important to teach children to have pride in their abilities and accomplishments.

I can still remember when my children were about 3 years-old and trying to get them dressed for the day. My son didn’t want me to help him put his shirt on and said, “I can do it myself!” I allowed him to get dressed by himself, and even though he put the shirt on backwards, the smile on his face told me he felt good about his ability to do things without help.

Children need to be allowed to make age-appropriate choices and decisions, such as deciding what outfit they’ll wear or what they want to eat for breakfast or lunch, as well as helping with chores and responsibilities in the home, in order to learn how to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

  • Would you like to wear the blue outfit or the red one today?
  • Would you like peanut butter and jelly or a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch?
  • Would you like to clean the kitchen or clean the bathroom?
  • Would you like to mow the yard or sweep the sidewalk?
  • Would you like vegetable soup or chili for dinner tonight?

Children need to be given self-esteem activities in order to feel good about themselves. John is the father of two children, a 9 year-old daughter and an 11 year-old son. From the time his children were five years old, John and his wife began taking the children to homeless shelter’s over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to help feed and serve the homeless.

John’s kids are some of the most compassionate and empathetic children I’ve ever known, so much so that when a family vacation was being considered one year over the holidays, both children said they “need to help the people at the shelter’s” rather than go on vacation. The vacation trip was postponed and the children were thrilled in being allowed to contribute to the final decision.

Children also need to be shown proper discipline from their parents, along with parents setting limits regarding how they talk and behave. Undisciplined children cannot grow up with healthy self-esteem and tend to be more dependent upon others, feeling they have no control over their own lives. Children need emotional and physical protection provided through rules and limits in order to have high self-esteem. I’ll be dealing with the issue of giving proper discipline to children in an upcoming article.

When was the last time you had a real conversation with your child or teen where you truly felt connected? What are some things you recommend parents do to help build high self-esteem in children and teenagers? Do you have a question or personal story you would like to share about building self-confidence in children? If so, please leave a comment below.

Further Reading:

Books on Building Self-Confidence in Children and Teens
How to Build Self-Confidence in Children and Teens
A Child’s Ten Commandments For Parents

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17 Responses to “Building Self-Confidence in Children with Self-Esteem Activities”

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  1. Rob O. says:

    At under 2, it’s still a little hard to really verbally connect but (by sheer coincidence) I’ve noticed recently that, sure enough, letting our little guy put on & help to take off his clothes does seem to give him a sense of accomplishment.

    Also, I really encourage him to feed himself during meals & snacktimes with either a spoon or fork rather than with fingers. And I praise his mastery of the utensils when doing so. Sometimes he still needs help with certain foods that aren’t as easy to manipulate with the spoon, but his coordination is definitely improving.

    Certainly, these kinds of things will make getting ready take a little more time, but I think this time spent is like an investment in his future independence.

  2. Lin says:

    Rob, it sure sounds like you’ve got things started very well for your little man. Good job!

  3. Bob Liddle says:

    Its good to train your children in such a way that their self confidence get a big boost and they are confident to do things by themselves.

  4. Chris says:

    Would you like to wear the blue outfit or the red one today? neither
    Would you like peanut butter and jelly or a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch? neither
    Would you like to clean the kitchen or clean the bathroom? I don’t want to clean
    Would you like to mow the yard or sweep the sidewalk? can i just watch TV?
    Would you like vegetable soup or chili for dinner tonight?
    I want cookies and coke.

    So how do I recover from these answers?

  5. Lin says:

    Hi Chris, teaching children how to make decisions and learn how to deal with the consequences of their choices is a fundamental role of parenting.

    Give the child a couple of choices, such as the examples in my post (some parents even allow 3 choices), and let the kid choose. If for example, a kid says “neither” to which outfit they want to wear, then tell them they have to choose one or the other. Period. No If, And’s or But’s about it. Pick one or mom/dad picks for you and you have to accept the choice.

    Peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese? If they say neither, then give them nothing until they make their choice of those offered. Not doing this creates the situation where parents become “short order cooks”, as if the family kitchen is the child’s personal cafeteria-style restaurant, where parents prepare different meals for each kid in the home. Ridiculous. Kids that really are hungry will eventually choose from what is offered. Kids won’t die by completely missing a meal due to trying to control the parent.

    Every person in the home, including children that are able to walk, can and need to participate in caring for the home. Not “wanting” to clean is no excuse. Children have to learn that being a part of a family is something that requires everyone to chip in and help, and those who throw a fit about helping with chores not only get double the chores, but they lose privileges as well. No TV, no computer access, no friends over or going outside to play, etc. Everyone helps, like it or not.

    The same applies about helping with yardwork or other duties necessary to caring for the home. Make a choice, do it to the best of your ability and willingly, or get double the chores and lose the privileges the child “can’t live without”.

    Cookies and coke for dinner? No way. Not an option. Parents that put themselves in the position of becoming a short order cook are setting themselves up to be controlled by their children’s tantrum’s time after time. Children learn real fast that if they throw a fit about something they don’t like, or don’t want to do, and they see mom/dad give in…the child instantly knows how to control the parents.

    Being a responsible parent is a tough job. And it requires parents to be tough, rather than allowing children (young children, teens and adult children) to control the parents.

  6. Mel J says:

    I’m having a difficult time with my 5 year old. Up until now (kindergarten) has had few if any emotional meltdowns or problems being in care of anyone other than his father and I. Now attending public school kindergarten class with 21 other students and cries all day. I am completely confused. His teacher reports unacceptable behavior that he is not allowed to exhibit at home. I don’t know what to do.

  7. Lin says:

    Hi Mel, some young children have a very difficult time starting school and being around so many other kids, and sometimes can be overwhelmed by everything going on around them.

    Have you sat down quietly with your 5 yr old, perhaps while reading a children’s book to him (maybe a book about going to school?), and asked him how he feels about school? And, does he like school? If so, why…and if not, why? And, does he have any friends he can name? Is he afraid of something or someone at school? If so, who and why?

    Can you calmly bring up whatever has been going on at school, where he began acting in an unacceptable way according to the teacher, to see what may have triggered his behavior? Is another child perhaps being a bully towards your son? Maybe taking toys away from him, pushing him, calling him names etc and causing him to become upset?

    Some young children have a very hard time adjusting to being in school, away from their parents who they know and trust, and the adjustment period can be hard for little kids to get used to being away from mom/dad.

    You haven’t specified the “unacceptable behaviors” the teacher says your son is exhibiting at school, so it’s almost impossible for me to know what might be the problem. Can you give me a little more detail on what exactly he is doing that the teacher feels is unacceptable behavior?

    Whatever it is that he is doing, there is a reason for it. In order to get things to change for the better, you have to calmly and lovingly ask questions that make him feel safe to tell you what is bothering him. Whatever is upsetting him at school, he will need to know that he won’t be “punished” or yelled at for expressing his feelings about school and what situations cause him to act up. Once you know from him directly what is going on that is so upsetting to him, you can then take necessary steps to help your son deal with whatever the problems are.

  8. Jenna says:

    Hello Chris.
    My son could be the twin! LOL! I often tell him that I think he is old enough to make the choice. I tell him if he doesn’t do it in a length of time I will make it for him and he may not like it. He is starting slowly to make the choice himself.

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