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Self-Esteem Activities for Children

Updated on February 20, 2014

There is an old cliché that holds true in the modern day: children can be cruel. When we are young we are often insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Sometimes this can manifest itself through bullying and name-calling. And – as many of us remember from our youth – those on the receiving end of these actions can feel the sting of serious emotional damage.

But sometimes it does not take a bully or a bad nickname. Some children are just predisposed to low self-esteem. They have low opinions of themselves. And this can start showing itself early on.

So what do you do when you begin to suspect that your child has low self-esteem? How do you help your child before the problem gets more severe? It may seem hopeless or scary when you have to ask yourself these questions, but there are options that can help you through this situation.

Things to Know Before You Start

There are some misconceptions that you need to understand before you start to take any course of action. First off, introversion does not necessarily indicate depression or low self-esteem. Just because your son or daughter is quiet does not mean that they are suffering from low self-esteem. So do not make the mistake of trying to fix a problem that does not exist. This will cause more problems than it is worth.

What indicates low self-esteem then? Well, there are some more obvious signs than others. If your child makes self-deprecating comments or joking remarks about their flaws on a regular basis then that might be a decent indicator that something is wrong. If they joke about their weight, their low intelligence, or their social status then make sure that it’s really a joke. Don’t overreact if they make one offhand comment about this sort of thing, but if they’re making these jokes daily then you may have a serious problem on your hand.

Another indicator that is kind of counter intuitive is that of early narcissism. If a child feels the need to tell everyone how good they are at something (or how pretty they are, or how smart they are, etc), then this may be their way of attempting to make themselves feel better. Deep inside they may be feeling very different from the claims they are making. So pay close attention to a child that feels the need to brag so regularly.

Lastly, if your child begins to bully other children this may be a sign that they are searching for a way to feel in control. Their negative treatment of their peers can be a sign that they are feeling helpless or weak. And their way of trying to remedy these feelings is by forcing others into feeling them. So do not take a report of your child bullying someone else as something to be angry about. Do not react to their actions that way. Instead, be careful to help them shape their self-image so that the root of the problem is taken care of.


Talking with Your Child about Self-Esteem

When you have paid close attention to your child and determined that they are having issues with low self-esteem you are going to want to immediately take steps to rectify the situation. But you don’t want to jump straight into any aggressive plan of action. Instead, start with a gentle conversation.

You might feel awkward doing so, but it really is the best way to go. Simply sit them down and ask them how they’ve been feeling. Ask if anything has been wrong. Inquire as to their well-being. Then carefully explain to them the concepts of self-esteem and self-image. And then ask if there’s anything that they think would improve theirs.

Your child may or may not have an idea about what could be done to help them out. If they do have something in mind then take it into consideration. Don’t do something drastic or unreasonable, but if it is a smaller request then try to make it happen.


Beginning to Raise Your Child’s Self-Esteem

A simple activity that can raise your child’s self-esteem is simply praising them when they do something right and reacting with understanding when they make a mistake. Be firm with punishments, but not harsh or angry. And when your child does something great make sure they know it’s great.

Past that, you can do little things to show them that they’re worthwhile. Show them their reflection in the mirror and have them say encouraging things to themselves. Get them started with a few of your own directed at your own reflection. Make the activity purposely playful and absurd. Consider telling them that their reflection is sad and that it needs cheering up if they seem to lack motivation to participate.

But these things are small steps. If you want them to have long term success then you’re going to need to show them some more advanced tactics. Specifically, you need to…

Teach Your Child How to Be Social

Their low self-esteem will be greatly boosted if they are able to successfully navigate their school, socially speaking. If they have a group of close, supportive friends then they are going to have people to fall back on when they face trouble in life. They will be able to rely on their friends for emotional support whilst dealing with issues that they may feel uncomfortable bringing to an adult.

This is most easily accomplished by teaching then what is and what is not acceptable to do in public. Teach them what conversational topics should be avoided. Caution them away from bringing controversy to the center of any interaction. Explain to them how to deal with those who treat them harshly (a good beginner method is to refuse to acknowledge whomever is bothering them, thus removing any satisfaction they gain from the situation).

Above all, stress to them that they should not sacrifice their principles for the sake of friendship or popularity. Make sure that they do not focus more on social success than being true to themselves. Because to go too far and lose themselves in the process will leave them far hollower than they ever would have been before.

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    • The Sun Lady profile image

      The Sun Lady 2 years ago from Planet Earth

      Thank you for a wonderful article addressing self-esteem! Sometimes the argument is that we overvalue self-esteem in American culture and worry about creating egomaniacal children who enter adulthood the same, but in truth it just takes balance, as with everything. As someone in the counseling field who works with children and adolescents, I'm agreeing with your article and also will be passing it along to others, friends, family, and colleagues. Thanks again, it's always good to see people caring for each other, especially our children.

    • Hannah David Cini profile image

      Hannah David Cini 2 years ago from Nottingham

      A very interesting hub. I remember how cruel school was when I was there and I can imagine nowadays it hasn't changed much. There's some good advice here. Voted up.

    • Theater girl profile image

      Jennifer 3 years ago from New Jersey

      Good information. Thanks for sharing!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Brett, I love these simple ideas. They really go a long way in encouraging a healthy self-esteem. Definitely sharing this.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 3 years ago

      Very interesting information Brett.

      So many children and adults have low self esteem. Any advice to help them get a more balanced view of themselves is useful.

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 3 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks for highlighting this important topic, Brett. I'm knee-deep at a summer camp this week with some challenging children. I can see that a lot of their behavior is rooted in low self-esteem. I did a hub about working with girls to improve self-image and self-esteem. Very important as they return to school. Voted up and useful.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      You have outlined many ways to identify and help treat low self esteem. I especially like how you pointed out not to rush into anything but to do it gently. Though children seem tough they are really delicate souls and it is up to us to help them on their way.

      Voted up, useful, interesting, and shared.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 3 years ago from West Virginia

      Brett, very useful resource for anyone that is associated to children, teachers, parents, grandparents. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared. I think parents tend to overlook such elements about their children, not on purpose, but because we never learned such techniques. Great resource Brett, best wishes.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Children need such activities to improve their self-esteem, helpful points here.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 3 years ago from India

      It is very difficult to identify a child with low self esteem as children react differently than adults on many situations. This article has explained well how to identify the subtle changes in the child with low self esteem and ways to correct it

      Voted up and shared

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very practical and useful advice for parents and teachers, who have to deal with children with low self esteem.

      I am linking this hub of yours to one of my hubs published last year, on a more or less similar topic. If you have any objection, please let me know.

      Thank you!

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