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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2018
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How to help your child have strong self-esteem

Here is a list of ways to convey the message: “You are worthwhile” to your children. The ways to raise responsible, happy children are limited only by our imaginations.

Here are some places to begin:

  1. Tell her on a regular basis that you love her. Actually, say the words. If you think, “I don’t have to tell her. She knows,” you are wrong. It doesn’t count if you think it but don’t say it out loud.
  2. Tell him that you are glad he is your child. Say the words and mean them. If you don’t feel it, you should find out what’s going on. We all have moments when we have a hard time getting in touch with our positive feelings for our children. I’m not talking about those times. If most of the time you’re not feeling good about being your child’s parent, something needs further evaluating.
  3. Give her an example to follow. Take the time to teach her the steps. Kids need models. It’s unfair to expect that she will know what to do in her daily life if you haven’t shown her how to do it.
  4. Look at her when you speak to her. This conveys, “This is important, and you are important.”
  5. Look at him when he speaks to you. This conveys, “What you are saying is important. You are important.”
  6. Explain why. It takes more time, but it conveys that she is important enough to spend the time helping her understand. When you explain why, you are also saying, “I understand that you need to know why. I am going to help you meet your needs.”
  7. When he tells you about something that happened at school, ask him how he feels about it. Take the time to listen to his answer.
  8. When you ask a question, watch your responses. Don’t disagree or criticize his answer. This teaches him that it isn’t safe to be candid and will make him edit what he tells you.
  9. Take her seriously.
  10. Say no when you need to say no. Kids need to know there are limits and that some things are outside of those limits.
  11. Set a positive example with your own behavior. You can only expect her to behave with dignity and self-respect if she sees you doing it.
  12. When you lose your temper or make a mistake, apologize. Say that you are sorry, be specific about what you are sorry for, and give him a chance to respond.
  13. When you know that you have disappointed him, acknowledge it. Ask him how he feels about it.
  14. Spend time alone with her. Arrange activities for just the two of you.
  15. Give her a private space where she can express herself.
  16. If he did a good job on something, say so.
  17. If she didn’t do such a good job on something, point out what she did well.
  18. After a disappointment or failure, ask, “What did you learn from the experience?”
  19. When you are giving feedback, describe specific behavior. For example, “I like how you asked the question so politely” or “You still need to pick up the towels off the floor.”
  20. When there is a problem, focus on the issue, not the child. For example, “You didn’t do the last ten problems on this assignment” is more constructive than “You never finish anything.”
  21. Let her be the one to choose the restaurant, movie, or activity some of the time.
  22. Go in and say goodnight before she goes to sleep. (This is easy to forget once they become teenagers.)
  23. Review child development literature regularly to stay updated on what is normal at each age and stage. It is important to recheck your standards and expectations to be sure they are realistic for the child’s age and individual abilities.
  24. Make certain that your body language matches your words. If they are out of sync, he will be aware of it.
  25. If you show that you accept yourself and your actions, you give permission to her to do the same. 
Candace Debban-Anderson, MA, LCSW

Candace Debban-Anderson is a licensed therapist. She enjoys working with children and adolescents. She also works with adults and families. For more information, visit Sherman Counseling at or call 920-733-2065.

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