2 min read
African American father and his son.

Self-esteem develops early in life. It is how we feel about ourselves. A child’s self-esteem is guided by his or her parents. When parents foster positive, healthy, and nurturing relationships with their children, they feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, some children can also develop poor self-esteem at an early age when parents do not feel good about themselves. Poor self-esteem can lead to rejection, hostility, and negative criticism of children.

Parents are their children’s first teachers. They are responsible for providing their children with positive self-esteem throughout their lives. In some cases, parents are unable to provide the positive reinforcement necessary to help their children become happy, smart, and capable people. Children learn their first lessons, whether positive or negative, from their parents.

Negative Self-Esteem

When children have low self-esteem, they are not confident. They may not engage with others if they feel they do not fit in. They may let other people treat them badly and are less likely to stand up for themselves. Kids with low self-esteem may give up easily and have a difficult time bouncing back if they fail. As a result, unlike kids with positive self-esteem, they may not achieve their best.

Positive Self-Esteem

Children who possess positive self-esteem are not afraid to answer questions in class and they do well in school. They relate well with other people and are not afraid to make new friends. Parents who possess positive self-esteem often pass that character trait on to their children.

Listed below are phrases and words that parents can use to promote positive self-esteem

  • Good job or way to go
  • You got it or super job
  • Great or fantastic
  • Excellent or wow
  • Perfect or wonderful
  • That’s it or good for you

Be Realistic

No one is perfect. If you fall short in building up your child’s self-esteem, take some time to reflect. This shortcoming can be used as a tool to repair relationships with children. This involves apologizing, empathizing with how your child might feel, and trying to do better. The main thing is to be open and honest. Honesty and openness create a more acceptable environment. The goal is to help children become confident adults that can live successfully in the world.

Remember children are small people who deserve love, respect and affection. Always provide them with that extra hug, smile, fist bump, high five, and I love you. Positive self-esteem…pass it on.

Alabama Extension Programs

National 4-H programs are delivered through Cooperative Extension systems across the nation. Research has proven that these programs are excellent for kids in “helping them to grow confidence, independence, resilience, and compassion.” These programs also help to enhance self-esteem in children and youth.

Alabama Extension offers educational programs that can help children and youth to develop positive self-esteem. Family and child development programs help parents to improve parenting and other life skills that positively impact family dynamics.

For more information about 4-H youth development programs contact Angela Williams at (256) 372-5713. For more information about family and child development programs contact Dorothy Brandon at (256) 372-5458.


Firestone, Lisa. 2011. “Your Child’s Self-Esteem Starts With You.” Accessed March 27, 2020.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201106/your-child-s-self-esteem-starts-you.

kidshealth. Edited by D’Arcy Lyness. 2018. “Your Child’s Self-Esteem.” Accessed March 27, 2020. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html.

National 4-H Council. 2016. “The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-h Study of Positive Youth Development.” Accessed March 27, 2020. https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/4-H-Study-of-Positive-Youth-Development-Fact-Sheet.pdf.

The Center for Parenting Education. 2020. “What Parents Need to Know About Self-Esteem.” Accessed March 27, 2020. https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/self-esteem/what-parents-need-to-know-about-self-esteem/.

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