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Building Positive Self-Esteem

Updated on August 2, 2013

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

These words have stuck with me since I saw the movie, The Help. The intimate relationship between the child and “the help” is a portrait of how important self-esteem is in every child’s life.

The child in this film was without many of the things that we will discuss in this article. The only positive influence in her life came from the help.

Words Can Hurt

One of the biggest lies we repeat throughout our childhood is, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Long after physical wounds have healed, the angry words another person used against us still linger. If those angry words come from a child’s parent, the effects can be much worse.

Parents are a child's first teacher. What they learn from their parents will be with them throughout their lifetime.

Be A Role Model

We are constantly hearing in the media how some "so and so" of some fame has disappointed their fans by doing the unspeakable. And we are again asked, "What do we think of our role model?" I believe the more important question is why do we allow these people to be role models for our children.

What does it mean to be a role model? Have you heard the expression “Actions speak louder than words”?

Holding yourself in high esteem and treating yourself well translates without words to your child. They will know that having a positive self-worth makes for a more successful life.

If you have negative self-esteem, children in your care will eventually mirror you. Avoid being excessively negative or critical of yourself.



Children can express inaccurate beliefs about themselves.

For example, they have failed a test; they come home saying that they are “stupid”. Redirection is needed. You must be realistic with the child, but also encouraging. Ask the child questions that can help you redirect their feelings about how they did on the test. Perhaps they know they didn't study as hard as they could have or they need extra help with that particular subject. Once you know what they feel contributed to failing the test, you can constructively tell them how to fix the problem.

After giving constructive advice, let them know that you believe in their ability to conquer the challenge the test provided.

What do you think of positive affirmations?

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Every Child is an Individual

In order to feel special, one must know that they are special. Encourage a child's strengths. If they are good at reading, encourage their reading. Give them tools to improve those skills.

Never compare on child to another. Even if it's just to say, "Why can't you act like X?" This is never constructive for a child. It will either make them resentful of X or feel that you like X better than them. They are not X. They are Y. And they want to be the best Y they can be.

Encourage your children to do the right thing. Not to avoid punishment, but because it's the right thing to do.


It's so hard not to go with that first reaction of anger and disappointment when our children misbehave. Our first instinct is to yell. Of course, your child needs correction for misbehavior, but what they don't need is rejection.

Phrases such as, "You never clean your room!" or "Why do you always forget your keys?" Are not corrections, but accusations and more likely to cause discord.

Better corrections should include acceptance of the child, but not the behavior. For not cleaning your their room, you could say, "I need you to clean your room, honey, instead of playing video games." Calling the child by a sweet name or nickname lets the child know that you still love them, but need them to get their work done.


In The Help, Mae Mobley, and her nanny/housekeeper, Aibileen, share a unique and loving relationship. While Aibileen spends time giving Mae Mobley positive affirmations, time after time, her mother speaks of her imperfections and dismisses her child. When Aibileen is walking away from the house for the last time, we watch Mae Mobley looking at her and crying from the window. The scene is heartbreaking. We, the audience, are left to wonder what will become of that innocent, mistreated girl.

The most important aspect of building self-esteem is love. As caregivers of our future generations, we must ensure that children understand that they are loved. We must make time for our children in our busy schedules. Help them to puzzle out the mysteries of growing up and being disappointed. Most importantly, offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on when it's needed most.

How do you build your own self-esteem?

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