How to Help a Child with Low Self Esteem

Self-esteem is very simple words are the estimate of self. A child’s self-esteem is the image the child has of her/himself.

A child with high self-esteem believes

  • I am lovable
  • I am capable
  • I can contribute

It is important to note that all the above three conclusions are linked to others. And so a child with high self-esteem is a child who is successfully involved with others.

What a child thinks her/his place in the world and in the eyes of other people is very important because she/he bases all her decisions in life on this. This includes the decision on how to behave, how hard to work and whom to choose to be with.

Low Self-Esteem in Children Causes

Babies are born with very high self-esteem. They know they are lovable and they know they are capable. That is why they smile at strangers with no hesitation. And they keep trying until they are able to walk and talk.

As they grow we sometimes interfere with the growth of their self-esteem. The following are the cause for a child developing low self-esteem

#1. Lack of Independence in Self-Care Tasks

As babies grow into children – they need to gain more and more independence to feel capable. They need to be able to do the things that were so far being done for her/him.

They need to learn to eat independently, put on their clothes independently, put on their shoes independently and do everything else that needs to be done to take care of their bodies.

When because of their excessive love parents continue doing things that a child is perfectly capable of doing – children begin to lose self-esteem.

#2. Not Contributing to Chores

Once a child can take care of her/himself – she/he wants to contribute to the household – in order to feel worthwhile. When parents are excessively loving or when parents have staff employed to take care of every little task in the house, children find no opportunity to contribute.

All they are expected to do is to stay out of the way when work is being done.

Instead of feeling like they can contribute they feel like they are a hindrance to the work of those around them. And this lowers their self-esteem

#3. Being Protected from Failure

A baby has no idea of the concept of failure. When a baby tries to walk and falls down in the process, she/he does not think of it as a failure. It is simply an opportunity to get up and try again.

Children discover failure when as parents we do our best to protect them from failure.

When we do things for our children or make decisions for them so that they do not make mistakes and do not fail we teach them that what they are doing is not good enough.

We convey to them that they are not capable and they develop low self-esteem.

#4. Comparison with Others

When babies are born they know only about themselves. Slowly they discover that they have parents. And they expect to be the centre of their parent’s world.

This expectation is shattered when the parents suddenly start comparing them to others.

Whether they say it aloud or not children sense their parent’s disappointment when parents begin to compare them with other children.

Even seemingly harmless words like “Why can’t you eat as fast as your brother/sister?” can make a child feel unloved and lower her/his self-esteem.

When children see their parents comparing they get into the habit of comparing themselves with other children. And this makes them feel smaller and smaller.

#5. Incompetence in An Area that Friends Find Valuable

As children move out of the house and go to school, they need to fit into their peer group.

It is important for children to feel competent in whatever their peer group values at that time in order to be accepted by the peer group and have friends.

If suppose running fast is valued by children of that age group not being able to run fast can result in the child being excluded from the group. And being excluded can lead to low self-esteem.

Children have different skills and every child may not excel in a particular thing like running fast but a child who feels competent, worthwhile and loved at home is likely to be able to take this rejection in her/his stride.

And a child with good social skills may actually be able to retain friends in spite of not having the desired skills.

#6. Rigid Expectations

It is very important for parents to have high expectations of their children at all times. Because high expectations convey to the child that her/his parents believe in her/his ability.

However, it is important for parents not to have rigid expectations such as “If he is a boy he has to be good at sports” This can destroy the self-esteem of a child who may not be good at sports but may be very good at music.

Such rigid expectations constantly tell the child that she/he is not good enough unless she/he can fit her/himself into a certain box designed by the parent’s imagination. This lowers the child’s self-esteem.

#7. Labeling

Labeling a child good or bad because of her/his behavior is dangerous because behavior is not constant. And when one is labeled good or bad because of one’s behavior it can lead to yo-yoing self-esteem which is likely to be based on the parent’s mood.

This can lower the self-esteem of the child because she/he learns that who he is – is dependent on what others think about him.

How to Prevent the Development of Low Self Esteem in Young Children Less than 6 Years

  • Allow them to do things that they think they are capable of doing
  • Avoid saying “no” to too many things
  • Do not make your child feel guilty about their need to separate from you and build a separate identity outside the house
  • Understand and cope maturely with separation anxiety
  • Do not enforce discipline. Explain why things need to be done
  • Be fully there when you spend time with your child.
  • Do not get distracted by devices

How to Prevent the Development of Low Self-Esteem in Children between 6 to 12 Years

  • Allow friendships. Do not try to isolate your child.
  • Expect to bully and help your child cope with it
  • Help your child learn social skills or the art of getting along with others
  • Allow children to follow the gang. Don’t expect individuality
  • Spend lots of time with children. They need adult role models
  • Help children master academics and extra-curricular
  • Avoid loading your child with so many activities that they have no time to play
  • Help your child to differentiate among friends
  • Allow lots of space to discharge physical and emotional energy through active play

How to Prevent the Development of Low-Self-Esteem in the Teens

  • Rebellion is normal as children try to break free from the family. Be democratic and the rebellion will be easily managed.
  • The more skills a teen has at this point the less he will veer towards unacceptable antisocial behavior. A teen who is good at a game or music or something else will be able to connect with peers through that and will not need to slip into device/porn addiction or a distracting friendship.
  • Allow teens to question everything – including traditions and religious customs. Be willing to argue and give in.
  • Allow teens to take on various roles by dressing and behaving differently. They are experimenting with various identities.
  • Allow teens to fluctuate between acting completely grown up and mature and extreme childishness. It is tough to leave the safety of the parent’s world and step out alone. Give them the freedom to come back to you when they need to.
  • Be relaxed when teens burst into tears easily, get angry in a second, get into fights or giggle too much. They are just trying to hide their insecurity
  • Allow them to connect with friends. It feels good to know that other teens feel the way they do. Welcome friends at home.
  • Don’t compensate for your presence with presents.
  • Give teens the opportunity to achieve things on their own.
  • Let the home be a safe space. Stop fighting over dirty rooms
  • Do not constantly keep telling them that they are dependent on you for everything
  • Do not tease your teen about her/his changing body or behavior

Low Self-Esteem in Children Symptoms

Low self-esteem finds different outlets in different children. But at its core low self-esteem changes the way the child views her/himself and her/his ability to connect and contribute to those around her/him


Bullying is one of the most well-known signs of low self-esteem. A child with low self-esteem bullies another in an effort to feel like the greatest and most powerful


A child who constantly brags about her/his possessions and abilities is a child with low self-esteem who is looking to build her/his self-esteem. They want the person they are bragging to – to agree with her/his claims to feel great and good.


Children who develop low self-esteem due to repeated rejections on various fronts, withdraw into their own world of fantasies. They create their own fairy tale about their abilities and achievements and start living it and this results in lies.


This is the most obvious sign of low self-esteem when a child does not want to interact or engage with anyone because she/he fears rejection and failure


Constant complaining and telling tales about siblings or playmates is another way in which a child tries to feel good about her/himself by putting down others


Children who talk constantly are also bidding for attention because they feel unworthy and undeserving of attention.


Children who kick hit and bite at the slightest provocation are also victims of low self-esteem. They use aggression to combat crushing emotion of rejection


Many parents are surprised by this – but over achieving is another sign of low self-esteem. When a child thinks that she/he is loved only because of what she/he can do she/he becomes obsessed with being an achiever.

Poor Academic Performance

In stark contrast to over-achievers children who are rejected socially perform poorly in academics because they are constantly preoccupied with their inability to fit into the outside world and be part of their peers.


Many children with low self-esteem find solace in eating. Food and the feeling of fullness that comes from food is connected to early childhood when eating meant being held close and finishing food meant seeing a smile of the mother’s face.


A child who is loud and obnoxious is usually trying to cover up her/his inadequacies and low self-esteem.

Too compliant

A child who is constantly waiting for instructions, always listens to everything and has no opinion of her/his own and cannot make decisions for her/himself suffers from low self-esteem

Bad Behavior

A child with low self-esteem who does not feel good about himself is sure to behave badly. The bad behaviour is likely to elicit a bad reaction from the others around her/him and lead to further bad behavior, giving rise to a vicious cycle. Bad behavior must always be viewed as a cry for approval.


A child with low self-esteem focuses on looking perfect rather than developing potential and moving towards greater and greater capability. These children are also gripped by the fear of failure.

Device Addiction

Devices are the easiest way to escape from the real world where others may reject you, disapprove of you or be better than you. Most children who are device addicts are addicted to devices because of low self-esteem and the lack of confidence to go out and live the real life in the real world. Device addiction in the teen years can turn into porn or violence addiction.

How to Build Self-Esteem in Children

To Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem – You have to ensure that your child feels lovable, worthwhile and competent

To Make Your Child Feel Lovable – Stop comparing your child with others

To Make Your Child Feel Worthwhile – Spend time with your child

To Make Your Child Feel Competent – Allow your child to make decisions

#1. Get Rid of Your Rigid Expectations

One of the most important reasons children develop low self-esteem is because of their parent’s rigid expectations. Children never question our expectations, they begin to question their own capability.

An example of a rigid expectation is “Boys are good at football” A boy who is not good at football but amazing at music may develop low self-esteem when he is heaped with such an expectation.

Look for positives and nurture and encourage those in your child. A child who is good at one thing will develop the self-esteem to attempt and master everything else.

#2. Do Not Overprotect

Self-esteem is built when a child is able to think “I can manage on my own”. When we over-protect children they begin to imagine that they cannot survive without us.

It is important to allow children to find their own ways to fight their battles. When we keep fighting for them we send them the message that they are not good enough to fight for themselves.

We lead them to believe that we are better than them and the people we are fighting with are also better than them. This leads to low self-esteem

#3. Do Not be a Helicopter Parent

Helicopter parenting is the kind of parenting where you constantly hover over your child and instruct her/him to do this and to do it this way and no other way. This micromanaging is painful – both for the parent and the child.

As a helicopter parent, you are sure to begin resenting the time you have to spend with your child getting things done and parenting in general. Because of the time and energy, you invest in routine tasks relating to your child you are sure to criticize your child, be disrespectful and become extremely demanding of perfection.

All this is likely to make your child feel unloved and she/he is likely to develop low self-esteem.

#4. Spend Quality Time with Your Child

The easiest way to tell someone that they matter is to spend time with them. A lot of times we count the hours or minutes we spend with our children without focusing on what we are doing during that time.

Often in our bid to spend a lot of time with our children, we multitask to cope with the other demands on our time. Children don’t need us to spend all day with them. Even if you spend a few minutes with your child – ensure that you are completely present during that time.

You are not worried about what you are going to serve for dinner, you are not using a device and you are listening with genuine interest more than talking and making appropriate responses.

#5. Do Not Over Schedule Your Child

A child who is too busy learning too many things at the same time is unlikely to excel at anything. She/he is also likely to feel harried and hurried and inadequate all the time because of the constant yelling and shouting by the parents to hurry up.

It is important for children to have free time to enjoy their own company and discover what amazing people they are. Stop pushing your child into too many activities.

Being the Jack of all trades is unlikely to be useful to a child who is gripped by low self-esteem and is demotivated as a result of that.

#6. Connect Fully

Most of the time we connect with our children when we want to scold them for bad behavior or when we want to correct their mistakes. As a result of our children only receive negative feedback from us and develop low self-esteem.

Make sure you connect with your child without an agenda sometimes. Share what you did during the day, the mistakes you made and how you corrected them.

Ask for your child’s opinion on your behavior or actions and listen carefully to suggestions on alternate action plans.

#7. Share Your Genuine Feelings

Many parents believe that children need to be protected from all negative emotions like anger, sadness, and stress. So they try to be smiling and sweet all the time. They hide their real emotions, without realizing that it is not possible to hide anything from our children because they know us better than anyone else.

When what we say is different from what we are feeling in that moment we confuse our children and they begin to imagine that they are the reason for our unhappiness. This leads to low self-esteem.

Be real. Explain to your child that you are stressed because of something not related to her/him at all. Frankly admit that you cannot share what is bothering you, but be upfront about the fact that you are stressed because of it.

#8. Never Label Your Child

Labels of all kinds are terrible. When a child is labelled bad – she/he begins to believe that she/he is bad and starts behaving badly. Bad behavior leads to a bad response from the parents and further bad behavior from the child resulting in a vicious cycle.

Labeling a child good is also bad because it creates intense guilt when the child has bad feelings like anger. In both cases, children develop low self-esteem.

Always remember to point out that the behavior of the child is either good or bad in a particular moment and that the behavior can be changed,

#9. Help Your Child to Succeed

Even if your child is extremely talented she/he is likely to struggle in some things. It is important to help your child persist at these things until she/he manages to overcome the challenge and succeeds.

Attempting new things and overcoming new challenges builds self-esteem. Remember that our role as parents is to encourage children to persist until they succeed.

Our role is not to overcome the challenge for them. Our role is also not to push them to overcome their challenges. Both pushing children to do things against their will and doing things for them leads to low self-esteem.

#10. Love Unconditionally

All of us love our children. And of course, we love our children unconditionally. But through our behavior, we sometimes convey conditional love.

We express our love more on days when our children behave well. We display our affection more when our children succeed at something that we value.

Conditional love lowers self-esteem. Unconditional love makes children feel cherished and raises self-esteem.

Remind yourself to love your child and express your love because you are lucky enough to have a child. Don’t be afraid that this will spoil your child. Authentic love does not have a negative impact. It builds self-esteem.

#11. Respect Individuality Do Not Expect Obedience

The mark of a “good” child is usually unquestioning obedience. But while being obeyed boosts the parent’s self-esteem – it destroys the child’s self-esteem. Always seeking approval makes children unhappy and not receiving approval whenever they express their ideas and opinions lowers their self-esteem.

Allow children to speak up. Credit them with having a fully functional brain. Allow them to make decisions. Help them to learn from their wrong decisions.

Building a better brain that is capable of making better and better decisions in every situation is what truly builds self-esteem

#12. Let the Home Be a Safe Space

No one can be perfect all the time but we don’t make that allowance for children. They are expected to be models of perfect behavior both inside and outside the house. And whenever they falter and become even slightly imperfect they are judged and scolded.

Children need the space to be themselves and know that they are loved anyway.

Do not make the home a place where you criticize and judge and compare. Let it be a space where children can experiment with all kinds of behavior good and bad. And love them anyway.

#13. Do Not Try to Negate Feelings

There is nothing to be afraid of OR there is no reason to cry are instances of parents negating the feelings of children.

Our feelings make us who we are in a particular moment and when we negate the feelings of a child – we are effectively telling her/him that she/he does not exist and does not matter.

This is a sure fire way to lower a child’s self-esteem where she/he cannot trust her/his own feelings. And feels that she/he is the only one who gets angry or upset while no one else feels that way.

Always accept your child’s feelings of fear, anger, and inadequacy as real and help her/him to build strategies to overcome the challenges that are causing these feelings so that the feelings have no space to appear in anymore.

#14. Let Them Be Little

Limit your expectations and keep them age-appropriate. It is a mistake to expect children to behave like adults. When we have the wrong expectations we are sure to be disappointed. And when children sense our disappointment, they are certain to develop low self-esteem.

Let children behave like children. Stay relaxed around them and allow them to slack off sometimes and make mistakes at other times.

#15. Give Children Chores

Out of our love for our children and our focus on academics and another achievement, we keep our children away from chores. What we do not realize is that depending on others for basic things actually lowers self-esteem.

Doing chores makes children inventive, innovative, creative and independent. All of which are essential components for building self-esteem.

Child Self-Esteem Activities

Play a game where each person in the family writes a list of things they like about the other members of the family. Your child will be pleasantly surprised to see what you like about her/him and so will you.

Be honest and do not manipulate the list or make it conditional to your expectations. So I like it when you keep your room clean is not right. But saying I like you because you are always so loving is fine

Write a Gratitude Journal

A lot of times we feel smaller than others because we feel that they have more than us. Start writing a gratitude journal every day. List out 5 things you are grateful for each day. It will rewire your brain and show you how much you have

Start a Project

Start doing a tough project with your child. Spend a little bit of every day slowly seeing that project to completion. Seeing her/his perseverance and determination firsthand will build he/his self-esteem


Helping out the less fortunate is the easiest way to build self-esteem. Go to a school for the specially abled and help them with something they are hoping to achieve. It is sure to make you feel good.

Do a Trek

Setting off into the unknown challenges you physically and mentally. And when you overcome those challenges you build self-esteem

Take up small projects to make your child independent

For example, teach her/him to shop for groceries alone or travel by metro alone. Positive self-esteem is the most important character attribute that can make your child successful. Make sure you build your child’s self-esteem.

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