Self Esteem for Kids

Written by Karl Perera, BA, MA, DipLC - Any purchase you make helps support my work on this website

Kids are very dependent on their families and it is first from the family unit that they begin discovering who they are. Self esteem starts developing at age five, many claim. This before they start school. As parents, brothers, sisters or friends we can have an impact on a kid’s self esteem and we may not even be aware of the effect a few words or certain behaviour can have. These effects can last for years well after the child has grown older, so this topic needs to be considered very carefully.

boosting self esteem in your child

As a parent myself, although now my kids have grown up, I know how important it is to bring up children to be self confident and have healthy self esteem. They will need this to be successful and happy in life. More than that, healthy self esteem is essential for good mental health. After having written about how to build self esteem and confidence for many years, and having published a book on the subject, I would like to offer you the facts and give you some tips and advice about self esteem in kids and how to encourage the kids in your life.

Self-esteem is simply how you value yourself. As a general rule, self esteem in kids starts to develop from about age 5. Causes of low self esteem in children include parenting that does not make the child feel loved and secure, isolation, obesity and poor academic achievement.

Of course, as with everything this subject is quite complex and so on this page I’ll try to make it easier to understand and help you understand how what you can do to help build self esteem for kids, and to recognise the signs that a child lacks self esteem and needs help.

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What is self esteem in simple words?

Self Esteem

According to Hosogi et al. (2012), self-esteem can be described as a “feeling of self-appreciation” which is necessary for success in life. Without this positive sense of self worth a child may lack confidence and may be unable to cope with the challenges he or she faces. Furthermore, psychological problems can result from low self esteem.

Rosenberg (1965) defined self esteem simply as either a positive or negative attitude towards oneself.

Self esteem is basically the value one thinks one has as a person. It can change according to events in the child’s life which occur in social interaction with family members, parents, teachers, friends and others. How a child thinks about him self/ herself is not only a result of others actions or words, it is what the child then believes about him or herself. For example, if a child believes he cannot succeed in some way, he may feel bad about himself. Likewise, if a young girl believes she is ugly, she will feel that way. It is the negative feeling and belief that causes self esteem, not the words of others. However, the words and actions of others can lead to negative judgements about oneself causing low self esteem.

A child’s level of self esteem develops as a result of the environment in which he or she grows up. Many factors can affect the self-esteem of any child, which we discuss in the next section.

What Causes Low Self Esteem in Kids?



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  • Finally understand the steps you can take to build your confidence.
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There are many potential causes of low self esteem in kids. One of the most influential aspects of a young child’s life is the family, especially the parents. It should be no surprise then that parenting is a crucial factor in the development of the self esteem of a child. Unfortunately, small children are easily influenced by negative parenting methods and this can damage a child’s confidence and sense of self worth.

Obesity in children is a growing problem and is a possible cause of low self esteem. According to Lin et al. (2018), between 1980 and 2013 obesity in children increased by as much as 47% across the world. Most likely the problem centres around the comments that others can make when a child is overweight. These negative comments can be from parents, family members or other children who the child often comes into contact with, such as others at school. It doesn’t take long, if these comments are repeated, to affect the child’s thoughts about himself. Pretty soon a child can develop low self esteem and other psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.

Another cause of low self esteem in kids can be parental expectation. Parents can sometimes push their children to succeed. This puts stress onto the child and if the child does not live up to the expectations of the child the parent may express disappointment and the child will feel this. Children naturally wish to impress their parents and if they sense any form of disappointment from them it can make them consider themselves unworthy. This can rapidly descend into internal feelings of inadequacy and therefore low self esteem.

How to Build Self Esteem in Children

“One of the main jobs of parents is building and protecting their children’s self-esteem,”

Stanford University Psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D. Source: Good housekeeping (U.S. ed.), 2010-01-01, Vol.250 (1), p.85

One of the most important things to do to help a child build self esteem is to first test the child to understand the underlying causes and problems behind the lack of self-worth. There are many ways to do this. One way is to use questionnaires to assess what might be behind the feelings of the child. Normally, for self esteem Rosenberg’s test is used but for kids it is a good idea to use one specifically designed for children such as the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory or Pope’s 5 Scale Test for Children.

For parents who wish to encourage a health level of self esteem in their child, the best way to do this is to be a parent who cares, shows warmth and makes the child feel secure. One reason why this is so important may be that it shows children what a positive relationship is and helps teach them how to form closer and caring connections with others. Success in relationships will bring with it higher self-esteem as the child becomes close to others and forms bonds (Yeung et al. 2016).

Take a look at this page for more ideas about parenting and ways to boost the self esteem of a child.

References

  • Coopersmith S: The Antecedents of Self-esteem San Francisco: Freeman WH; 1967.
  • Hosogi, M., Okada, A., Fujii, C., Noguchi, K., & Watanabe, K. (2012). Importance and usefulness of evaluating self-esteem in children. BioPsychoSocial medicine6(1), 1-6.
  • Lin, C. Y., Griffiths, M. D., & Pakpour, A. H. (2018). Psychometric evaluation of Persian Nomophobia Questionnaire: Differential item functioning and measurement invariance across gender. Journal of Behavioral Addictions7(1), 100-108.
  • Pinquart, M. and Gerke, D.-C. (2019) ‘Associations of Parenting Styles with Self-Esteem in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-Analysis’, Journal of Child & Family Studies, 28(8), pp. 2017–2035. doi: 10.1007/s10826-019-01417-5.
  • Pope A, McHale S, Craighead W: Self-Esteem Enhancement with Child and Adolescents New York: Pergamon; 1988
  • Rosenberg M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press
  • Yeung JWK, Cheung CK, Kwok SYCL, Leung JTY. (2016). Socialization effects of authoritative parenting and its discrepancy on children. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 25: 1980-1990
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Website Author and Editor Bio

Photo of Karl Perera, MA, DipLCKarl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.