Building Your Child’s Self-esteem

Beyond using praise, how can you help your child develop a healthy self-esteem that will stick with her for life.



Experts Motherhood interviewed are all of the view that positive attention develops a child’s self-esteem by making them feel loved and cherished. Ng Siau Hwei, senior clinical psychologist, Department of Paediatrics, National University Hospital says positive attention from parents helps the child build a healthy self-image. This gives the child confidence and sets the foundation for her future interactions with people outside of the family. 


When asked if praise is an effective way to build self-esteem, Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre and Dr Vanessa von Auer, founder of VA Psychology Centre both say praise must be meaningful.


Dr von Auer says, “Superficial or generic praises such as

“Good boy” and “Good Job” do not offer much value.

Genuine praise, which clearly labels what the child has done well,

helps her identify her strengths.”



Allowing your child to take risks and make her own decisions are crucial. “Taking risks and being trusted to make decisions help children understand day-to-day experiences and distinguish right from wrong. Knowing that your parents trust you to make decisions is empowering and will certainly strengthen the child’s self-esteem,” Dr von Auer says. Koh suggests parents consider the maturity level of their children and whether it is safe before doing so. Parents can also discuss with their children and act as a guide when they take risks and make decisions.


On the other hand, constant criticism and correction conveys disapproval and can make a child feel inadequate and weaken her self-esteem. Insisting the child does things your way and giving her too much help for something she is actually capable of doing by herself further debilitates her self-esteem.



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✔            Give your child positive attention regularly.

✔            Accept and love your child as who she is and not who you want her to be.

✔            Teach her to think about what she sees and hears rather than believing it wholesale.

✔            Encourage your child to verbalise her thoughts and emotions. This not only helps her make sense of them, it gives 

               you a chance to dispel inaccurate and self-defeating ones.

✔            Forgive her for making mistakes and let her know.

✔            Praise your child for doing well.

✔            Be mindful of what you say and how you say it when you correct her behaviour.

✔            Do things together.

✔            Let her take the lead.

✔            Ask your child to show you how to do something.

✔            Empower her to make her own decisions.

✔            Encourage a child to try new activities and take risks. Offer guidance if she asks for it.

✔            Teach her to identify the positive side of things rather than harp on the negative.

✔            Teach them to be proud of not only their achievements but also their attempts/ efforts.

✔            Reassure and comfort the child in times of distress.

✔            Listen to what she has to say and offer comments or suggestions.



✘            Compare your child with other children or against societal norms.

✘            Transfer your own stress, anxiety or disappointment to your child. Avoid giving negative emotional responses.

✘            Impose unrealistic expectations and demands, as well as your own lost hopes and dreams, on your child.

✘            Make hurtful remarks and be overly critical.

✘            Focus on failure rather than success.



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Thanks for sharing!