Healthy Self-Esteem Thinking
By Michael Grose
Confident kids think differently to children who lack confidence or
who have low self-esteem.
Dr. Michael Bernard, the creator of You Can Do It, an achievement program for children and young people found
that a child's thinking habits tended to be a greater determinant of
academic and even social success than real ability.
In many ways this is stating the bleeding obvious.
Most of us have met or worked with very talented people who are held
back by low self-esteem or poor self-belief. They talk themselves
down or out of success before they have even tackled a task.
Bernard found that children with low self-esteem had
three poor thinking habits, which are reflected through the way they
speak and behave. These poor habits are:
The use of self-put downs: e.g "I am no good." "I
am not that smart"
Perfectionism: e.g. "I can't make any mistakes
with this activity. If I can't do it perfectly then I won't do
Need for approval: "What do you think of this mum?
Do you like it?"
Confident kids have different automatic mindsets to
children with low self-esteem. A mindset or habit of the mind is the
automatic tendency of a child or young person to think in a certain
way. By thinking in a certain way a child will experience certain
emotions which will affect his or her behavior.
Confident children and young people have the
following three positive mindsets, which guide them through the
course of their day:
Self acceptance - e.g. "I'm okay even when I make
Taking risks - e.g. "I will have a go even if I
can't get it right straight away."
Being independent - e.g. "It's what I think about
myself, not what others think that matters."
Confidence means a child knowing that he or she will
more than likely be successful at many of the activities that he or
she will tackle. They will not necessarily succeed the first time
but with effort and patience they will succeed eventually. Confident
kids, for this reason, are more likely to persist and stick to a
Four factors affect the development of child's
mindset. These are:
Genetic tendency. Some kids are simply more
optimistic than others. They can thank one of their parents for
Past experiences of success or failure - When kids
experience success particularly after they have struggled they are
more likely to think that they can achieve next time. That's why
small struggles and early successes mean so much.
Exposure to confident mindsets - Heaps of research
reinforces the notion that children pick up the explanatory style
of the significant adults in their lives. The message is clear.
Parents' optimism needs to be heard by children and their
‘woe-is-me thinking' needs to be curbed.
Direct intervention. Parents and teachers can
directly model and teach children to think confidently and develop
a mindset for confidence and persistence.
Parents can do little about the first factor, but we
can certainly do a great deal about the last three factors. This
places parents in a very influential position, particularly in a
child's first eight to ten years. These are the self-esteem or
self-confidence building years as it is during this time kids are
trying to work out the answers to two key questions: "What can I
do?" and "How do I fit in?"
Parents need to not just send the message to
children through their language and the way they treat them that are
capable but they can also help them develop positive mindsets by
An optimistic explanatory style,
Developing a vocabulary of around confidence ("you
can do it") and persistence ("hang in there") mindsets,
Catching kids in the act when they show confidence
Teaching them how to reframe negative thinking
into positive thinking.
These are just some of the strategies we can use to
develop confident mindsets in kids.
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. For free courses and resources to
help you raise happy kids and resilient teenagers visit