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How to Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Praise is more meaningful when it helps children appreciate their achievements.

Children’s self-esteem can come from recognizing how much work they put into meeting a goal.

The words you use to praise children show them how to look at their own efforts.

You know it’s important to praise children. But it’s even more meaningful for children to learn to appreciate their own efforts. Self-esteem comes from working hard toward a goal and feeling good about it. So when children see that their hard work is paying off, it helps them develop the ability to self-praise. What you say—and how you say it—can help children to recognize things that they should be proud of. Here are some suggestions.


The project you’re looking at is good, but you know that more effort could have gone into it.

Try saying…

“That’s a great start.”

The self-praise connection

“How do you like it?”

“Do you think it’s your best effort?”

This approach helps children reflect on whether their work measures up to their expectations. It also asks them to consider how hard they worked and whether they’re proud of the effort they put in.

Wriggles and Giggles deliver face to face group sessions in Yarm, Hartburn, Ingleby Barwick that you can join by booking a sessions that best suits you, if you are a parent or carer to an early years child from birth. All areas of learning are covered for your child's development and your own understanding of how that happens and how to get the best outcome for them with your parenting techniques.


Your child has done something well, but is downplaying the positive actions and success of the effort.

Try Saying…

“You may not think it’s a big deal, but it was kind of you to stick up for your friend.”

The self-praise connection

“It sounds like you’re proud. What about this makes you feel that way?”

This approach points out what you think is worthy of praise and what you value. It also asks children to think about what they’re proud of and what they value.


You know your child worked hard but still didn’t meet the goal.

Try Saying…

“I’m sorry you didn’t quite make it to your goal. You got close! Do you feel like you can do it the next time?”

The self-praise connection

“It’s nice that you enjoyed the books you did read, even though reading can be hard for you.”

This approach asks children to reflect on what worked, not just what needs improvement. It also helps children learn to be OK with doing things they like to do, but aren’t great at.


Your child aces a test—and knows it.

Try Saying…

“I’d love to know how you did it! What strategies did you use?”

The self-praise connection

“Wow, I can see why you’re excited. You worked really hard.”

This approach reminds children that consistently doing something well takes effort—even if they didn’t doubt they could do it. It asks children to look at what they did that led to success. And it helps them acknowledge and take pride in their effort and success.


Your child behaves according to the expectations you talked about ahead of time.

Try Saying… The self-praise connection

“Thank you for listening/following the rules. I know it took hard work to do that.”

This approach gives children specific feedback they can directly match to the expectations. It also allows them to start paying attention to how they’re measuring up to what’s expected of them.

Praise can help motivate your child. But self-esteem comes from working hard toward a goal. It’s important to give kids opportunities to find new interests to pursue and work at. You can help kids explore their strengths with a crafty and visual activity— making a strengths chain.


Praising effort—even when children don’t meet their goals—can help build self-esteem.

It helps to ask children to explain what they did that led to success.

Being specific about what you expect can help children match their actions to expectations.


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