9 Ways to Help Kids Improve Their Self-Esteem, Confidence and Self-Worth
Updated: Nov 11
Raising kids who are confident in their own skin can be a challenge for any parent or educator. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help children feel good about themselves, and boost their self-esteem. Read on for nine tips to get you started!
Confidence, self-esteem and having a positive self-image are all important concepts for kids to embody. Confidence is about having faith in oneself and believing that one can achieve anything they set their mind to. Self-esteem is about feeling good about oneself and being proud of who they are. Self-worth is about valuing oneself and recognizing that one is deserving of love, respect, and happiness. All three of these concepts are important because they help kids to feel good about themselves and give them the power to believe in their own abilities. When kids have a healthy sense of self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem, they are more likely to be successful in school and in their personal lives.
1. Help kids set realistic goals for themselves to improve self-esteem
As a mental health professional, educator, or parent, one of the best things you can do for children is to help them set realistic goals for themselves. This is not only helpful in terms of achieving success, but it can also be related to self-confidence.
When children have a clear and attainable goal, it gives them a sense of purpose and when they achieve this goal, it can help to boost their self-esteem. Furthermore, when children are successful in achieving their goals, it reinforces their self-worth and helps them to feel more confident in their abilities. So, if you want to help the children in your life build self-confidence, one of the best things you can do is to assist them in setting realistic goals. By doing so, you'll be helping them to develop a strong sense of self-esteem and a positive outlook on life.
In fact, I like to help kids set their own S.M.A.R.T goals! I think this is an important life-skill and it can help learn how to set and achieve goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, a specific goal might be to finish a specific book report project. A measurable goal might be to read a certain number of pages per day and finish the pages by a certain deadline. An attainable goal might be to complete the project that is within their skill level – such as with any accommodations needed, like using dictation. A relevant goal might be to complete a project that is relevant to their overall goals (such as doing better in school.) And a time-limited goal might be to complete a project within a certain timeframe. Many kids find it helpful to break down big projects into smaller steps. By helping kids set S.M.A.R.T goals, we can help them develop the skills they need to succeed in life.
2. Encourage kids to take on new challenges to boost self-worth
It's important to encourage kids to take on new challenges, even if they're anxious, scared, or unsure of themselves. By taking risks and facing their fears, kids learn that they are capable and strong. They also develop a greater sense of self-worth and self-confidence. These are essential qualities that will help them throughout their lives. Of course, it's important to make sure that the challenges kids take on are appropriate for their age and skill level! But as long as they are safe, there is no harm in letting kids push themselves outside of their comfort zone. It's an essential part of growing up and learning who they are.
3. Praise kids for their efforts to enhance self-image
We want our kids to have self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem, but sometimes it can be hard to know how to foster these. One way we can help our kids develop a healthy sense of self is by praising their efforts instead of their outcomes. When we focus on praising the process instead of the product, we encourage a growth mindset and teach our kids that it's okay to make mistakes.
By doing this, we also send the message that effort is more important than innate ability. This can help kids to develop grit and perseverance, two essential qualities for success. So the next time your child does something worthy of praise, take a moment to focus on their efforts instead of their end results. It might just make a difference in their self-esteem.
4. Let kids make mistakes - they'll learn from them!
It's a familiar scene in any household with children: an excited toddler takes a few faltering steps, then suddenly topples over. They cry, and the parent rushes over to comfort them. It's only natural to want to protect our children from hurt and disappointment. However, research has shown that making mistakes is an essential part of learning and developing a growth mindset.
Children who are afraid to make mistakes tend to have a fixed mindset: they believe that their abilities are set in stone and cannot be improved. On the other hand, children with a growth mindset see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. They're not afraid to take risks, because they know that they can always get better. Studies have shown that children with a growth mindset are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges and overcome setbacks.
So the next time your child makes a mistake, resist the urge to jump in and intervene. Instead, encourage them to keep trying and praise their effort. Help them to see that making mistakes is okay and it’s an expected part of the learning process!
It's important for children to understand that failure is not the end of the world. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. Help your child see failure in this light by praising their efforts when they don't succeed right away. Let them know that you are proud of them for trying and that you know they can do it with some practice.
5. Teach kids how to use positive self-talk to increase self-confidence
One of the best things you can do for children is to teach them the power of their thoughts, how to identify helpful versus unhelpful thoughts, and how to use positive self-talk. Doing so will help them to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, and it will also provide them with a tool they can use for the rest of their lives. Positive self-talk can take many forms, but one of the most effective is using affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements that you can say to yourself to help reframe unhelpful thoughts. For example, if you're feeling nervous about giving a presentation, you might tell yourself "I’m confident and capable" or "I’m prepared and I can do this."
Repeating these affirmations to yourself can help to boost your confidence and give you the motivation you need to succeed. So, teach your kids affirmations and encourage them to use them whenever they're feeling scared or unsure of themselves. It's a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.
If you need some help teaching kids to identify helpful thoughts, and unhelpful thoughts, and change unhelpful thoughts into more helpful and positive thoughts, be sure to check out my book, Skills for Big Feelings: A Guide for Teaching Kids Relaxation, Regulation, and Coping Techniques.
6. Give kids positive reinforcement when they display qualities like kindness, compassion, and generosity
Kids are constantly absorbing the messages around them and learning how to interact with the world. That's why it's so important to give them positive reinforcement when they display qualities like kindness, compassion, and generosity. When you do this, you're helping to build their self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. In turn, they'll be more likely to act with these qualities in the future. So, next time you see a child being kind to a friend or showing compassion for a pet, take a moment to let them know how proud you are of them. It will make a world of difference in their development.
I like to teach children how to give “inside” compliments. These can be a little more challenging to make but they usually feel more special because you’re saying something nice about the other person’s inner qualities, like their personal traits. These type of compliments say something nice about what’s inside the person – rather than things that are on the outside (like what the person looks like or what they’re wearing.). So you can model how to give inside compliments to kids! I have made this freebie with an inside compliments worksheet and bulletin board set in my resource library! Just subscribe at the top of the page or here.
7. Use Games to Help Children Improve Their Self Confidence, Self Worth, and Self Esteem
I recently came across this fun game called Strong Suit - The Tower of Self Esteem Game. I did a reel over on instagram about it!
I love this game because it promotes positive thinking and has a series of questions that helps kids recognize good virtues within themselves and others. I like that this is a cooperative game to help kids work together to build a joint tower and a personal tower.
And I love the author's note that “if the tower falls, the child is encouraged to think constructively instead of getting frustrated, to figure out how to better stabilize the card tower. They will learn that they do not ‘fall’ with the tower but rather develop their creativity and flexibility.”
8. Use Books to Help Children Improve Their Confidence, Self Worth, and Self Esteem
I did this reel on instagram to show some of my favorite picture books to help kids with their confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem! Here are seven books for kids on self-esteem to get you started!
I Think, I Am! Teaching Kids the Power of Affirmations by Louise Hay is a beautifully illustrated picture book that teaches kids how powerful their thoughts are.
You're a Star: A Child’s Guide to Self-Esteem by Poppy O'Neill is a fun workbook and guide that explores the concept of self-esteem in children. It provides kids with activities and practical strategies to nurture feelings of self-worth in young people - with a CBT-based approach!
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont is a super cute picture book that exclaims "there's no one else I'd rather be" and "I like me fast. I like me slow. I like me everywhere I go."
Incredible You!: 10 Ways to Let Your Greatness Shine Through by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer is an adorably illustrated book that shows them they have everything within themselves to create happy and successful lives.
Be You! by Peter Reynolds is a super cute book about being your most unique and special self! This book has awesome illustrations to celebrate being the best version of you!
I am Enough by Grace Byers reads like a poem and is a celebration of loving who you are and respecting others.
I Like Me! By Nancy Carlson is a great picture book for younger kids (preschool and younger) as there are just a few words on each page. This is a cute story about a pig whose best friend is herself!
9. Use Craft Projects to Help Children Improve Their Confidence, Self Worth, and Self Esteem
This craft project can be used two different ways. The first way is as an individual self-esteem craft project. Just have each child color their own wreath and then decorate ornaments with positive words and pictures to describe themselves.
The second way to do this craft is as a group cohesion project. To do this, just follow these 4 steps:
1. Each child writes their name in the of their wreath and then colors in their own wreath.. middle
2. Each child then decorates ornaments with positive words or pictures describing the other members of their group.
(Each wreath can fit 6-9 ornaments - depending on the placement and if there is a bow or not.)
Depending on your group size you might want to divide the children up into smaller groups and assign them to create ornaments for the kids in their smaller group, so everyone is included and receives ornaments.
3. Lastly, each child cuts out the ornaments they created and gives them to the child they made them for.
4. Lastly, each child then glues the ornaments onto their own wreath.
Thank you for following our discussion of how to help children with their self esteem. We hope that this information has been helpful and that you will use some of the tools and check out some of the great resources we’ve suggested. Remember, it is never too early to start building a child’s confidence and helping them learn to love themselves just the way they are!