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5 Ways to Boost Child Self-esteem

5 Ways To Boost Child Self-esteem

We talk a lot about self-esteem, and supporting children to recognise their own value. However, many of our systems have not yet adapted to support children to develop this vital skill. We hear a number of people talk about the influence of ‘social media’ and ‘influencers’ making children feel bad about themselves, and whilst they can, in some cases, have an influence, for the majority it is everyday influences that are more influential.

Here’s five things that we can consider:

#1 – Praise qualities not outcomes

So many children and adolescents struggle to say what is great about them. Many measures of success in the education system are focussed on outcomes (grades, merits, questions asked) but what about the children who are not in our top quota of intelligence? If we measure young people by their grades, successes, merits or rate confidence by how often they put their hand up – how do they learn what they are fantastic at? When we shift this dialogue to acknowledging and praising their tenacity, grit, determination, focus, resilience, inquisitiveness problem solving or perseverance, we begin supporting them to recognise their innate qualities.

#2 – Think about our generalisations

When we use generalisations, we need to remember that young people hear us. ‘If you don’t pass your GCSEs you wont get a job’ is a comment that floats every year. Rather than invoke enthusiasm and motivation, it often has the opposite impact. Further, since GCSEs began being graded with numbers rather than letters, there has been an increase in the number of children I meet who grade themselves as being a ‘failure’ for hitting ‘4s and 5s’, whilst years ago gaining a grade C would have been something to be proud of. Often, they have developed a belief that less than a 7 is a fail, frequently from dialogue that has been shared with them. Therefore, we need to consider how we use generalisations, and whether they give a truthful context to situations.

#3 – Positive outcomes don’t have to be about learning

When we consider positive feedback, we can frequently associate this with learning outcomes. After all, through their time at school, this is how we assess children – performing or not performing to benchmarks. For a young person who has perfectionist tendencies, grading on outcomes is detrimental to their well-being and outlook. It can lead to repeatedly doing things, in order to achieve perfection, and measuring their self-worth on the grade, feedback or final product. Therefore, we want to consider how we create opportunities for children and young people to gain feedback from contribution, rather than product. From donating their time to volunteering, to performing good deeds or being part of a team working towards a project, creating a sense of satisfaction can feel like a new concept to many children who may not usually feel this in outcome based tasks.

#4 – Step back and encourage

We can quickly become caught in the cycle of doing things for children, often not wanting them to have to struggle or even fail. However, confidence is a skill that we gain backwards, and from DOING things and learning from them. When we prevent young people from trying things out themselves, reviewing what went well or not so well, and identifying how to improve we also relinquish the opportunities to boost self-esteem. If I do not make a contribution, then I am unable to see my value. So many activities lack opportunities to see our skills, scrolling on phones, watching programmes lack the satisfaction of having created, contributed or learnt something. How can we create opportunities for young people to try things and learn from them?

#5 – Seek opinions

Many children and young people struggle to express their needs and feelings, and so do not offer them. To boost self-esteem, we want to consider how we offer them opportunities to share their ideas and experiences as well as making decisions which we respect and follow through. This can start with small decisions about snacks, lunches and meals to bigger decisions where young people are afforded the opportunity to plan activities or tasks. When our opinions are listened to, validated and then acted upon it supports us to recognise that we hold value and are respected.


Self-esteem is a long game, it is something that we work on for a life time. It also underpins our mental health and well-being. Where we can embed activities to boost this in everyday tasks we can support children more effectively.


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Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – ARTICLES 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – COURSES 

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit –RESOURCES 

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