How to improve your kid's self esteem

As mums our kid's well-being is important to us, so making sure they have good self-esteem is on our radar. Improving your kid's self-esteem, if you think it is low, is bound to be something you want to do. Below you'll find examples of low self-esteem and how you can improve it. As a mum of a teen I know how important monitoring their self-esteem is which is why I'm here to help.

Having a teenaged son I am well aware how having low self-esteem can impact their lives. BP has never been very talkative, he's a quiet boy and likes to keep to himself. But when he started to come home from school sulky every day, when he would spend hours in his bedroom and argue and fight with everyone at home I knew something was very wrong. I started monitoring his behaviour and wondering how I could teach him to be more respectful - that is until I realised that it was his self-esteem that was the problem.

How To Improve Your Kid's Self Esteem | Let your kids be who they are...
BP chills out on a boat in Orlando.

Examples of low self-esteem

Self-esteem is something that is hard to quantify. Some people would judge someone with high self-esteem as being big-headed or showing off. Others might just say they're pleased with themselves. Someone who is quiet and shy could just be quiet, or it could be that they don't have the confidence in themselves to be able to keep up a conversation. 

Your son or daughter may have low self-esteem if...

  • They are unaware of their own abilities. If they don't see their own talents, if you think they're a talented artist or writer, but they don't believe you it could be that their self-esteem is low.

  • Inaccurately comparing themselves to others. Looking at others' achievements and believing you could never be as good, or top it, is another sign of low self-esteem. 

  • Lacking courage to be themselves. Whether they're into rock music, like to dress in bright clothing, or love nothing more than watching a Disney movie - not being themselves, or trying to hide who they really are is a way you could see they have low self-esteem.

  • Feeling disempowered. If they feel like they don't have any influence, no one listens to them, it could mean they have low self-esteem. Although this is quite common in teens I do believe this is a big red flag when it comes to self-esteem.

So, now you have an idea of the examples of low self-esteem here's how you can improve it...

Step back and let them be themselves

Do you learn best when someone shows you how to do something, or when you do it yourself? When I'm driving somewhere for the first time, I'm much more likely to learn the route if I drive myself rather than being a passenger. The same goes for your kids. When they're learning something new it is always best to let them do it for themselves.

How To Improve Your Kid's Self Esteem | Let them learn, by doing - not by showing.
LP learning about taking photos.

I've been trying to teach BP to make himself things to eat - and not just bread and butter. I've introduced him to the microwave and shown him how to prepare quick things like pizza or jacket potatoes. The first time I showed him I made him do it all - I just stood by and told him what to do. I believe that he took in the instructions better than if I'd done it all for him and asked him to listen.

When you're teaching your son/daughter something new try restrain yourself from stepping in and doing it for them.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Sharon Salzberg

Improve your kid's self-esteem by giving them choices

When you choose something yourself you always feel like you have more control right? And your kids are no different. When they're given and choice, when they make a selection, they're empowered. They feel like they can make a difference to things, and that can really help with their self-esteem

I was discussing choice with my hairdresser recently when we were talking about my boys. She was about to cut LP's hair and asked me how I wanted it done. When I said it was up to LP (within reason) she was surprised. She told me there are very few people who let their children make the choice. I told her that, as long as it wasn't crazy, LP could have his hair how he wanted. She then asked him and he fancied a change. It wasn't a big change, just a slightly different cut but giving him the choice made him feel good. BP was just the same, he didn't change his style but he knows he has the choice if he wants to.

Letting them take healthy risks will improve their self-esteem

As mums we have a tendency to do everything for our children don't we? We don't want them to make a mess, we don't want them to hurt themselves, we don't want them to experience failure. But when we do that what are we actually teaching them? Are we doing more harm than good? I think we might be.

How To Improve Your Kid's Self Esteem | Climbing - one of the choices BP made.
BP choosing to climb...

By allowing our children to take healthy risks we are teaching them about consequences in an environment we know they are safe. Let me explain...

LP is 10 years old and for a long time I had made his breakfast for him. He has cereal every day and I would pour his cereal into the bowl followed by the milk. Then I realised he was nearly 10 years old and had never made his own breakfast. I decided to rectify that - sharpish! The next morning I got up a little earlier and made sure we had extra time (to clean up any mess) and I let him make his own breakfast. 

He poured the cereal all over the counter, and looked at me in shock. I looked back and said "You know what to do...". For a moment he stood just looking at the mess. But then he realised I expected him to clean up the mess, and he did. I told him where everything was to help him clean up but didn't step in. Once he'd cleaned up the mess (or at least most of it) it was time for him to pour his milk. At this point I really had to restrain myself. It took all I had not to step in and do it for him - I just had visions of 4 pints of milk being poured all over the kitchen counter and floor. But he'd learned from his mistake with the cereal and poured the milk really carefully. He held the milk with both hands and carefully poured it into his bowl. When he put the milk down - without spilling any - he had the biggest grin on his face I almost cried!

Rather than doing his breakfast for him, same as always, I taught LP that he can do something for himself and I have no doubt that improved his self-esteem.

Improve their self-esteem by giving them chores

More often than not you'll find that kids don't want to do chores. They hate having jobs to do - at least mine do. But what they don't realise is that by giving them jobs to do I'm giving them something they're responsible for. When it doesn't get done it is their fault and I will stand over them while they do the chore. 

While they're thinking you're being Evil Mum you're actually teaching them they can have an impact on the world around them. They choose whether they have a tidy bedroom, and by tidying it they can find their favourite toy. Again it is about showing them what they're capable of, because they can only see that when they do the things themselves.

Give them the opportunity to pursue interests and you'll improve their self-esteem

It could be that your kids like football, art, or writing, but if you give them the opportunity to pursue their interests - out of school - they're improving themselves and meeting new people, all of which will help their self-esteem. 

My eldest son, BP, doesn't do much outside of school. He likes to hang out with his friends and he likes to listen to his music, but he doesn't do a lot of other activities. BP is also the one I worry about most, I believe his self-esteem is low a lot of the time and I spend a lot of time trying to make him see how wonderful he is.

How To Improve Your Kid's Self Esteem | If you let them they can fly.
LP "flying" when climbing at High Ropes.

LP on the other hand, my youngest son, does a few things outside of school. He has Karate on a Sunday, which he loves, and he goes to a football group after school. He has friends in both groups and isn't showing any signs of stopping. He also has drumming lessons during the week, as well as visiting a group during the school holidays where he gets to play sports all day. He's always been active and loves trying new things. I think my biggest worry with LP is that he'll do so many things he'll have to drop something he loves. 

I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.

Charlotte Brontë

Spending time one-on-one with them can improve their self-esteem

Over the years we have learned that spending one-on-one time with your kids can make such a difference to them. For a long time we concentrated on spending time together as a family, but one-on-one time is just as important. You get to talk to them without interruptions from siblings, and you can learn about them.

The Hubby does this with both boys - for LP it's bike riding. They often go out on a bike ride that can last up to two hours and they both return smiling and laughing. It's always lovely listening to LP tell me what him and his dad have talked about. For BP is programming. BP has a talent for coding and being a programmer I think this gets the Hubby a little excited. It's nice to see them talking about coding (although it sounds like a foreign language to me!) and it's funny to see them getting into it and hours going by before they realise the time. 

Finding something you can do one-on-one is just as important as spending time as a family. 

How To Improve Your Kid's Self Esteem | Don't do things for them - let them learn how to do them themselves.

Being a parent is a learning experience and there's always something to keep your eyes out for. Self-esteem is one of those things you can improve, so if you think your son or daughter has low self-esteem why not spend some time trying to make a difference to them.

What activities do you do with your kids to improve their self-esteem?

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