10 Keys to Children's High Self-esteem
By Michael Grose
Self-esteem is a greater predictor of a child's success than
intellectual ability or natural talent.
Numerous studies support this notion. For instance, a longitudinal
study by The London School of Economics Centre for Economic
Performance followed the fortunes of all babies born in a particular
week in Britain. There was clear evidence that children with a
higher self-esteem at the age of 10 got more kick to their earning
power later in life than those with higher Maths, reading and other
The study found that 'high self-esteemers' had less chance of being
unemployed later in life and if they were, they would soon be back
in the workforce.
Parents and teachers intuitively know that feelings of self-worth
and positive self-esteem are important. But what is self-esteem and
how do you know if your child has healthy self-esteem or not?
Self-esteem is a healthy and optimistic view of one's value. If a
child evaluates him or herself positively and realistically rather
than negatively and unrealistically then it is usually deemed that
they have healthy self-esteem.
Most of the research available tells us that children with healthy
self-esteem do the following:
1. Take reasonable risks. They will try new tasks even if success is
2. Display favourable attitudes to others. Children with healthy
self-esteem don't need to put others down to feel competent. They
get a kick out of others performing well and are not threatened by
the success of siblings or friends.
3. Generally behave well. Children with healthy self-esteem
generally believe ‘I am okay as I am.' They do not have to find
their place in their family or in groups through misbehaviour.
4. Highlight their own strengths, successes and skills. Healthy
self-esteemers neither put themselves down when they do well nor do
they exaggerate their own skills or successes to gain a sense of
superiority. They tend to make realistic appraisals of their
5. Downplay and accept mistakes, failure and imperfections. They
don't dwell on mistakes or failure. They seem to understand that
mistakes are part of the learning process. They are annoying and
hindrance but they don't necessarily prevent them from trying again.
6. Are willing to try and show initiative. Conversely, children with
low self-esteem give up easily or show little confidence in areas
that are new.
7. Acknowledge their own contributions to success. They take
realistic credit for their successes without be boastful or saying
that any achievement happened due to luck or good fortune.
8. Compare themselves to similar children or young people, not
glossy images. It is natural and healthy to compare yourself to
others but the choice of yardstick is critical. Children and young
people with low self-esteem tend to use unrealistic figures as
yardsticks for success. While we often encourage kids to aim high,
kids with low self-esteem are easily put of by failure so the choice
of role model is critical.
9. Have a positive outlook and use positive language. Take note of
the language a child or young person uses. Healthy self-esteemers
know how to positive track or reframe negative situations into
positives and low self-esteemers so problems rather than challenges.
10. Believe that personal limitations can be worked on. Children
with healthy self-esteem know that success is linked with effort.
That is, hard work is no guarantee of success but it certainly
increases its likelihood.
In the past it was thought that we could enhance self-esteem by
simply making a child feel good about themselves. This is too
The building blocks of self-esteem are multi-dimensional and include
the following four aspects:
Positive parent, family and teacher interactions and expectations
Positive peer interactions
Coping skills and,
Successes that demonstrate competence and mastery.
Parents and teachers need a range of skills and strategies to help
children develop a healthy self-esteem and maintain it even when
events conspire to really challenge them.
Self-esteem building is important as the way a child perceives him
or herself is far more important in determining future outcomes than
pure ability and academic competence.
Michael Grose is a popular parenting educator and parent coach. He is the director of Parentingideas, the author of
seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA. Take
the Does your child have high self-esteem? quiz at