|How to Nurture
Your Children's Self-Esteem
by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
Theres no greater responsibility a parent has than to
raise their child in a manner that develops and nurtures healthy self-esteem. Its
simply the number one priority. A child who has strong self-esteem is better able to make
good choices. Being able to make good choices is a critical skill for navigating the mine
field that awaits your child as they grow olderpeer pressure, alcohol and other
drugs, emotional confusion and turmoil, pre-marital sex, developing healthy emotional
bonds with family and peers, and violence.
As important as a parent is in the development of healthy
self-esteem, did you know that the average parent spends no more than 20 minutes a day
communicating with their child. And of those 20 minutes, no less than ten minutes is spent
criticizing and correcting their child. Let me ask you, how much time do you spend
communicating with your children? And how much of that time is spent focused on
emotionally and developmentally uplifting your child?
To better understand your role in the development and
nurturance of your childs self-esteem, lets first take a moment to discuss
what self-esteem is. Self-esteem is the belief that one has about their essential innate
goodness, the worth they offer to others in relationship with others, and the greater
value that one offers as a member of the community of our universe. Your child is not born
with either good or bad self-esteem. Your childs self-esteem is formed and shaped
from the beliefs that your child develops about themselves. These beliefs are shaped and
formed from the collective experiences that your child has interacting verbally and
behaviorally with their environment and the people in your childs environment. Being
the primary person that your child interacts with, you have the opportunity to most
heavily influence the beliefs that your child develops about their essential innate
Thus it falls to you, as a responsible parent, to interact
with your child in a manner that positively shapes the beliefs that your child develops
about their innate goodness, value, and worth. Certainly, praise, positive feedback, hugs,
and quality time are all tried and true methods for nurturing the development of positive
self-esteem in your child. Such interactions reflect to your child the positive regard
that you have for them. Being held in positive regard by others is a fundamental element
A second important source for the development of healthy
self-esteem is the interpersonal relationships that your child develops. The health and
well-being of those relationships will strongly influence the health and well-being of
your childs self-esteem. An important skill for your child to develop in order to
develop healthy relationships is empathy. Empathy is the ability for one person to be able
to walk a mile in anothers shoes. Teaching your child to become an empathetic
responsible individual will enable to enjoy healthy relationships that provide critical
emotional nutrition for your childs self-esteem.
How best to teach empathy and responsibility? Teach your child to become more and more
aware of how their behavior affects you and other people. When you observe your child
participating in inappropriate behavior, use that as an opportunity to teach them
appropriate social behavior. More specifically, teach them to think about: 1.) How their
behavior negatively affects the well-being of others, 2.) How their behavior negatively
affects their well-being, 3.) The adverse consequences associated with their negative
behavior, 4.) Different choices that are more honoring and respectful of other people.
Besides the belief of innate goodness and respectful, nurturing relationships, a third
ingredient of healthy self-esteem is mastery. Mastery is the development of a
skillset that enables your child to have full command of a subject or activity. By
encouraging your child to participate in activities that that they enjoy and challenging
your child to stretch, hone, and refine their skills in those activities, your child will
have positive experiences that will enable them to feel good about themselves. This may
take the form of encouraging their participation in sports, academics, church, or other
community activities. The key is not to force your interests down their throat, but to
help them discover what their interests are, what they enjoy doing, and what they excel at
Whether talking to your child, correcting their behavior,
teaching them the nuances of friendship, or encouraging them to participate in activities,
a good rule of thumb to follow is that children learn best when parents are personally
involved. Be mindful of just how fragile your childs psyche istheir emotional
and psychological development is a work in progress. Never miss an opportunity for your
child to learn in a positive way that contributes to their ever-evolving belief about who
they are and what worth they hold within themselves. Help them participate in their
relationships in a way that focuses not only on them getting their needs met, but enables
them to honor the needs of others. Teach them how to participate in activities that feed
1.) Commit to positively shaping and nurturing your childs self-esteem.
2.) Commit to being appropriately involved in your childs life.
4.) Commit to being an active teacher for your child.
5.) Commit to being a role model for your child.
6.) Commit to being a source of love for your child.
6.) Commit to being a source of encouragement for your child.
7.) Commit to being a source of positive feedback for your child.
8.) Commit to being a source for setting limits and developing consequences for your
For more information about how to develop a strong healthy emotional connection with your
child, read Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. free online books, Entering the World of Your Child:
How to Nurture Your Childs Spirit and Building Better Bridges: Creating
Great Relationships With the People Who Matter Most.