A dynamic relationship exists between self-esteem and skill development. As a child improves in self-esteem, his academic competence increases. And as that competence increases, his self-esteem improves. The caring and concerned caregiver must come to realize that positive self-esteem is both a prerequisite and a consequence of academic success. Here are 20 tips to help foster a child's self-esteem:

  1. Value each child as an individual with unique strengths, needs, interests and skills.
  2. Focus on the child's strengths. Emphasize and celebrate his "islands of competence."
  3. Reject the child's behavior, but never reject the child. Use affectionate terms and nicknames when scolding ("Your room is a mess, honey. Now turn off the TV and make your bed.").
  4. Remember that sincere interest can be more effective and meaningful than praise. Demonstrate a genuine interest in her activities, hobbies, etc.
  5. Establish realistic, achievable goals for your child. Anticipate success.
  6. Avoid using sarcasm with kids - children with language problems often misinterpret it.
  7. When discussing an issue or a problem, avoid bringing up past difficulties.
  8. Never compare one child to another.
  9. Help the child develop decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  10. Understand that mistakes are an inevitable (and valuable!) part of any learning experience. Use these as an opportunity to teach and assist.
  11. Divide large tasks into smaller, manageable ones. This will ensure success, mastery, and retention.
  12. Maintain a file of his academic work. Use this to demonstrate his progress and development when he is feeling down.
  13. Encourage him to maintain "collections" (e.g., baseball cards, stamps, rocks, etc.). This allows him to be the resident expert on a topic.
  14. If she does not participate in team sports, promote individual sports (e.g., skiing, golf, swimming). This will provide opportunities for success, exercise, and peer interaction.
  15. Communicate your confidence in the child and in her future.
  16. Permit and encourage the child to follow the normal fads of his peer group (e.g., clothing, music). This will enhance his acceptance at school and in the community.
  17. Emphasize the positive aspects of her behavior or performance, even if the task was not completely successful. Reward direction, not perfection.
  18. Anticipate that the child will have plateaus, failures, backslides, setbacks, and regressions. Support and encourage him at these times. Kids need love most when they deserve it least!
  19. Look for opportunities to offer him choices to allow him to practice decision-making skills.
  20. Never, ever, communicate disappointment to your child. The disappointment of an adult may be too great a burden for a child to carry.


Emphasize, recognize and reinforce all four areas!

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© Richard Lavoie