Parents have been feeling good recently asking me about what they can do to help their child develop some self-esteem and pride in who they are without being overly confident.  Well, let me proudly provide some information on this topic.

Studies suggest that children who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time with conflicts and resisting negative pressures, are happier, and generally optimistic.  Children who don’t, think poorly of themselves and have a hard time finding solutions to problems.  They are the ones who say “I can’t” versus “I can.”

If you want to help promote self-esteem in your child, here are some suggestions: 

1.     Watch what you say. Praise your child not just for a job well done but for their effort trying.  For example, if your child doesn’t make a team, don’t say next time you’ll just need to work harder if you want to make it.  Instead say even though you didn’t’ make the team, I’m proud of you for trying, and the effort you put into it. Reward the effort and not the outcome.

2.     Be a positive role model.  If you are harsh on yourself, your child will be harsh on themselves. If parents fight or argue a lot or feel depressed, these feelings can rub-off on their children. So do your best to not demonstrate this type of behavior in front of your children or seek help for it before it does affect your child.

3.     Praise your child spontaneously and frequently but do so honestly without overdoing it. Give positive but accurate feedback. Telling them that you know they could be the best at math is only going to set them up for failure. Telling them they are working hard at math in school, and that you are proud they are asking you or their teachers for help so they can continue to do well is a better response.

4.     Find activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition as your children start school.  Also, find and celebrate what your child enjoys and may be good at, and allow them to cultivate that interest rather than instill interests you think would be good for them.
If you suspect your child does not want to try new things, speaks negatively about themselves, or has a low threshold for frustration, talk to your child’s doctor who can provide some additional suggestions or in rare cases suggest counseling or further professional help. 
Hopefully tips like this will boost your confidence and self-esteem when it comes to teaching your child how to boost theirs as well. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and on WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids video archives at

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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