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How To Build Children’s Self-Esteem

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

At The Flowers Day Nursery, our focus isn’t just on our children learning academically, it's also about us building their self-esteem and confidence during their time with us to support them throughout their learning and lives.

Children’s self-esteem is vital as it underpins their choices and decisions throughout their lives. Believing and knowing their self worth means they will have the confidence to know their own value and use it to thrive in their everyday lives.

What Helps Build a Child’s Self Esteem?

Always keep your expectations in line with their age

A child's view of the world is influenced by the people around them, and their age, so you should always think about what is age-appropriate to them and not expect too much too soon. Tasks or activities that will seem simple to us as adults can seem huge and sometimes daunting to them if they are not appropriate for their age and understanding. We should always adjust our expectations in line with a child’s age and ensure what we are asking of them is realistic. As an example. listing off a ream of instructions to a young child can make them feel frustrated which in turn could result in them starting to doubt their ability if it is something that happens regularly. It is better to ask them to clean their teeth and when they have finished, ask them to put on their shoes and then their coat etc if all of these things are age-appropriate and say thank you and well done at each stage. Asking them to do all 3 things at once could be daunting for them and both you and them will be frustrated. Often, as they get used to a morning routine they will start to do these things without you even asking them to do them.

Praise and reward their effort when they have done something well

Even as adults, it feels good when you have achieved something, and even better when someone recognises it so always think about this from a child's perspective. In life, there will always be times when we try our best but still don’t achieve things and this failure is a realistic part of life. When praising a child’s effort over their ability to succeed they will learn effort, resilience and persistence are worthwhile and worth celebrating. Praising and rewarding a child’s effort reinforces the importance of them trying and reconfirms it isn’t all about being successful and perfect every time.

Give them a chance to help you

Letting children help us and get involved in different tasks and actions gives them the experience and support they need to learn as well as allowing them to gain an understanding of the value of their effort and contribution. By doing it this way we are showing them that we value and appreciate their efforts, which in turn builds their self-esteem and self-worth, making them want to do it more. Most children love helping out with different jobs and activities if they are age-appropriate and receive recognition for doing them.

Give a child autonomy to make choices

As adults, we don’t like to feel we are being controlled and this is the same for children, whatever their age. Being told what to do, when and how often results in a child switching off, and they won’t feel empowered or engaged with anything. Always telling them what to do in a very prescriptive way can stop their desire, and ability to make decisions in the long run throughout their lives. A child choosing for themself will empower them and build their confidence as not only do they feel they have a voice but they will gain confidence from the decisions they make and will learn from them. In the long run, this empowers them to want to make decisions more and with more confidence which is a great attribute and needs in life.

Allow them to take some risks

As parents or carers, our natural instinct is to help children with everything they do, and when they are in risky situations. We aren't saying don’t step in if a child is in danger but there are some things they can take risks on and learn from, without impact or injury. Children who are allowed to take small risks will build confidence and self-esteem because they will have a feeling of empowerment and that you trust their abilities. It will also push their own limits and they will start to learn to solve problems on their own.

Allow them to work things out

As above, it is hard to watch children struggle and to stop yourself from stepping in to help them but sometimes this is needed. If we always step in too quickly we will take away the opportunity for them to solve problems and overcome challenges themselves.

There is no better feeling than overcoming a challenge, knowing that you succeeded and this is the same for everyone, whatever their age. Telling children that you believe in them and giving them encouragement that they can do things will inspire them to keep trying. In a lot of cases wanting to give up comes just before they are about to succeed so giving praise and encouragement often gets them to the succeeding point. This approach gives them the desire to keep trying and the chance to step out of their comfort zone to achieve something.

How To Build Children’s Self-Esteem

Always lead by example

Children learn by seeing children and adults around them doing things and behaving in certain ways. Leading by example in a positive way will show and help them do new things and activities, and in the right way. Use positive reinforcement when children are trying new things or struggling with something. Praise and don’t criticise. Talk about their strengths and what they’ve done well. Remember though don’t over-praise (praise everything they do) otherwise, they will learn to rely on this in their everyday lives.

Own your mistakes

This is very much a follow on from the lead by example above. As adults, we don't always get things right but ignoring it is not good for us, or for those around us. Taking responsibility for our mistakes and a child seeing us apologise teaches them responsibility and that mistakes are okay. By modelling perfection, it can set an unrealistic high standard for children, if not an impossible one to achieve. When we take responsibility for mistakes we set an example for children to follow, ensuring they understand that it's ok to make mistakes, supporting building their confidence and self-esteem.

Consider their behaviour rather than their character

Behaviour doesn’t make people who they are, especially in children. Often challenging behaviour in children is a sign of insecurity, concerns or a lack of confidence and it is down to us as adults, parents and carers to see through this and support them.

If you associate a child's character with their mistakes you will make them feel it is them as a person rather than their behaviour and this can impact their self-esteem. Our communication should reflect their behaviour at the time and not their character. You should always be consistent and address unacceptable behaviour referring to their actions and not about them personally. Children need consistency and boundaries and this ensures they feel secure. You should always talk calmly and explain why it wasn't good behaviour, talk about the positives and ask them why they behaved in that way to make it a two-way conversation.

Children dependent on their age can continue with behaviour when it is rewarded and stop a behaviour when it is ignored so you need to decide which is the right tact to take. Rewarding and punishing the same behaviour at different times will confuse a child so always be consistent. Things to remember:

  • Decide if the behaviour is or isn't a problem dependent on the child’s age and stage of development

  • Attempt to stop the behaviour, either by ignoring it or talking to them about it

  • Introduce a new behaviour that you prefer and consistently reinforce it by leading by example

Always nurture individuality

We all have our strengths and weaknesses and every person and child is unique. It's important for us to see the value in a child’s individuality and advocate that being different is okay and this will give them confidence and self-esteem throughout their lives. It is the people who think differently and the diversity in our world that make it a better place.

Last and definitely not least - Always lead with love

A child should have lots of recognition, praise and love when they are growing up and this along with routine, boundaries, firmness and consistency will result in a child feeling loved and secure. These things support their confidence and self-esteem, both of which they will carry through with them throughout their lives.

Through all of these things, children learn that despite mistakes they will always be safe and secure, loved and supported and this will make them want to try new things and keep trying whenever they are faced with challenges, thriving on positivity and support.

About The Flowers Day Nursery

We have been providing childcare in Swansea since 2004, for babies from 3 months old through to toddler age, preschool and when they first start school. We offer a local childcare drop-off and pick up service during term time to and from the local schools in Swansea which gives you the reassurance that they are in a familiar, caring and relaxed setting at the start and end of their day when they first start school.

We also offer a planned summer school for primary school-aged children outside of term time which incorporates fun and exciting activities.

At The Flowers, we understand that juggling work and a busy schedule are extremely demanding and we do everything we can to support you and your child through their early years' development making this easier for you.

We pride ourselves on our fun, caring and stimulating environment and our structured days support your child's learning and development at their different development stages. The Flowers Nursery is filled with love and positivity for our children and our priority is to ensure they feel safe and secure during their time with us.

Contact us today to find out more about our flexible childcare options.

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