Developing Self-Esteem in Children – Principle #3

Today, we continue with Principle 3 in how caregivers may best be able to build positive self-esteem in the lives of our children, for caregivers to structure situations to help the child experience feelings of success. Although we cannot and should not protect children from all difficulties or failures, we can encourage them to succeed. These successful experiences can give a child a positive sense of self that will allow him to face larger difficulties that will inevitably confront him throughout his life.

What happens when you help your child experience the feelings of success

It is still essential to emphasize accomplishments for an older child.
It is still essential to emphasize accomplishments for an older child.
Caregivers tend to do this a lot for infants. For example, when we place a toy or a rattle near and they pick it up on their own, we celebrate that accomplishment. 

However, for a child who is a bit older, we tend not to emphasize accomplishments. We tend to forget that sometimes the tasks before them are sometimes extremely difficult.  Additionally, it may be very hard for a child with a special need to complete what we think is a very simple task.  In these situations, it is helpful to break down the tasks into simple steps to make it simpler for the child to succeed. Then, when we catch him succeeding, we have the opportunity to acknowledge his growth.

Here are some ways that caregivers can provide experiences of success with a child:

  • When a child is struggling to do something, assist but do not take over so that the child will experience the success of completion.
  • Let the child know that his efforts and persistence are noticed and appreciated.
  • When the child is upset because he cannot do a task, let him know it sometimes takes a long while to learn something new and offer to help him learn it when he is ready.
  • Let children make mistakes but notice the part of the project they did well and acknowledge this success.
  • Provide tasks that can be accomplished quite easily initially and that gradually become harder.  Thus,  the child will have some success to support him when the tasks become more challenging.

Celebrating success builds self-esteem and motivation

It makes a huge difference for caregivers to be present, attentive and intentional when helping a child to experience success, even if it is incremental. Giving attention to these key moments can create a sense of hope. It can help the child recognize his potential which will help promote confidence that will encourage a lifetime of successes. Further, this confidence will provide the resilience for the child when facing difficult moments that may come his way.

This is a vital principle for us all to be conscious of as we help our children discover that they truly can accomplish great things in their lives!

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Research taken from Pathways to Competence,  Second Edition, Sarah Landy, p. 350.


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