There are plenty of reasons why our children might be struggling to feel worthy… the rise in social media, unfair systems in society, and the many challenges that come with simply growing up.
Dr. James Dobson (2015), child psychologist, identifies beauty, intelligence, wealth, athletic ability, and family dynamics as just a few of the means by which young people judge the worth of themselves and others. Our children want to be physically attractive, smart, athletically inclined, etc. – but, who defines what those terms even mean for our children? And how can we help our children know their worth?
As a parent, you can actually make a big difference in helping your child overcome feelings of inferiority, enabling them to grow into capable, confident adults. Here are four strategies to get started.
4 Strategies for Building Self-Esteem in Our Children
Implement a “no knock” policy.
This means that we should not tolerate our children speaking about themselves in a self-deprecating manner. Children that suffer from lower self esteem often talk about themselves in a belittling manner to anyone that might listen. When they speak those depreciatory words into existence, it causes them to “become solidified as fact in one’s own mind” (Dobson, 2015, p 104).
Our job as parents is to teach our children to see themselves as worthy, and negative self-talk cannot accomplish this.
For more on how language impacts the mental health of our children, check out our recent articles 5 Harmful Things to Say to Children and What to Say Instead (Part 1) and 5 MORE Harmful Things to Say to Children and What to Say Instead (Part 2)
Teach our children to compensate for their weaknesses.
Allow our children to fail.
We will not be able to shelter them from those inevitable disappointments forever, as much as we would love to be able to. It is far better to teach them how to handle negative emotions, not provide an “instant fix” for every problem that arises.
If your child needs help to strengthen an area of weakness, get them the help they need.
Though we might disagree with the “system,” it is ultimately our job to help our children grow in ways that will enable them to be competitive with their peers.
For example, if your child is struggling with acne, see a dermatologist to help get it cleared up. If he or she is below grade level in reading, take advantage of tutoring programs to help him or her be more successful. If anxious thoughts are hindering them from being at their personal best, see a mental health professional.
Dr. Reader (2019), registered psychologist agrees with using a strengths-based approach to improving self esteem in our children. She states, “Research suggests that the more you recognize your child for the strengths and positives that make them who they are, the more they are able to grow stronger in their strengths and to be more resilient”.
The strengths model works to increase self-esteem in our children, improve the parent-child relationship, and helps to support management of negative behaviors. If your child struggles with ADHD, for example, it is really easy to focus on how impulsive he or she is, and one might become bogged down by how difficult that is to manage. That impulsivity, however, could serve them well later in life when it is easier for them to control. Children with ADHD are more comfortable taking creative risks, which could lead to new and creative ways to solve existing problems.
Banes (2016) has a similar message. She affirms, “Those of us who are truly happy with our adult lives have learned to do things we are good at and not stress about the rest. We probably delegate or outsource the things we’re really bad at. Children can’t always avoid their weak areas, but by focusing on strengths we build self efficacy and confidence”.
It is our job as parents not to remove every struggle for our children, but to help them find their niche in an area that satisfies them emotionally and that they want to explore. Helping our children focus on building strengths sets them up for a healthy identity formation later in life.
The responsibilities we have as parents to tend to the whole child (physical, social, spiritual, and emotional development) can be very overwhelming at times. As a parent always finding my way, I find critical support in my tribe of friends and family. There are also numerous support groups online.
The Lily Jo Project runs an online resource page chalk full of resources to help support those parenting or working with youth of all ages, as well as providing self care tips for parents and youth workers as well. I am the moderator of the group, and we would love to have you! You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
If you enjoyed this article, you may find the following articles helpful:
- Raising Happy, Resilient Children…What Works?
- Let’s Talk about our Feelings: Building Emotional Intelligence in our Children
- Top Anxiety Reducing Products for Teens and Young Adults
Banes, K. (2016). 6 ways good parents contribute to their child’s anxiety. Washington Post.
Dobson, J. (2015). Building confidence in your child. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.
Reader, M. (2019). Keeping a focus on strengths: Managing self esteem, relationships, and
behaviors. Foothills Academy. Retrieved from
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.