Nurturing Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy in Children

Healthy self-esteem is a real strength for your child. Self-esteem helps a child deal with the many challenges in the world. Self-efficacy, the belief in one's abilities is equally important.

A child's self-esteem can be impacted by so many things, relationships with parents, teachers, friends, and peers influence a child's perception of themselves. Additionally, as children learn and develop new skills, their self-esteem and self-efficacy increase.

Self-efficacy is important in determining how much we will try to accomplish a difficult task. If a child does not believe he or she will succeed, they are less likely to put in a good effort. Children are learning new things almost every day. They face difficult academic challenges in school, they must learn to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. The social environment presents its own difficult challenges. Other children and even some adults can be difficult to deal with. New experiences are constant during childhood and all children must participate in a myriad of situations.

Nurturing self-esteem and self-efficacy

If your child is having difficulty making friends — understand how important friendships are to a child's self-esteem and find ways to teach them age-appropriate social skills. Sometimes children are just shy. Sometimes they haven't learned appropriate ways to interact with their peers. If your child is shy, help him or her practice introducing themselves to others talk to them about their fears if they are timid or shy.

If you notice your child displaying difficult behaviors when they are with their friends, talk to him or her about it.  Don't assume the child will learn on their own or "grow out of it." Talking to your child and offering helpful advice about how to interact with others is appropriate and helpful.

Reassure your child of your love and acceptance — if your child is having difficulty with relationships outside the family, make sure he or she knows they are loved and accepted even if others are not so accepting. This gives them a "secure base" from which to explore the world. No matter how difficult things are outside, home is always a safe place where the child can feel safe and expect your support and understanding.

Treat your child with respect — if you do not treat your child in a respectful manner, he or she will incorporate your views and opinions into their sense of self. A respectful and loving relationship, especially with a parent will help the child develop a positive view of themselves.

Support your child even when he or she fails — life is a process of learning and growing, especially during childhood. Make sure your child understands that failure is okay. If your child's behavior disappoints you, explain the situation and give them time to reflect on what they've done. Let them know you love them even though they may have let you down, next time will be better.

If your child is having difficulty in school — take steps to help in ways that you can. Find a tutor for difficult subjects or spend time helping your child with their homework.  Be careful not to send the message that your child's self-esteem should be determined by their academic performance, instead, let them know that you want to help and that you are not willing to let your child struggle on their own without support.

Things to keep in mind as your child grows

  • Understand that self-esteem and self-efficacy are not the same but they influence each other. Increasing one will help with the other.
  • It is normal for self-esteem to fluctuate, especially in children. A good day at school with friends can help your child feel good about themselves but a bad day can have an equally powerful effect.
  • Help your child be good at an activity he or she enjoys, this gives them at least one thing that is not vulnerable to outside influences.
  • Communication is always helpful. Encourage your child to talk to you about their feelings, the activities they enjoy, and how their friendships are going. Make sure your child feels they always have at least one supportive person to talk to.

Dr. Brown is a therapist and parenting coach specializing in child development and parenting. If you would like to learn more, visit his website here.



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