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5 Red Flags That Your Child May Have Low Self-Esteem & Ways To Build It Back Up

5 red flags your child has low self esteem

5 Red Flags That Your Child May Have Low Self-Esteem

Never underestimate the importance of instilling self-esteem in your child. As Dr Sears states :

Self-esteem is your child’s passport to a lifetime of mental health and social happiness. It’s the foundation of a child’s well-being and the key to success as an adult. At all ages, how you feel about yourself affects how you act. Think about a time when you were feeling really good about yourself. You probably found it much easier to get along with others and feel good about them.

Conversely of course, if you think of a time when you felt particularly down on yourself, everything seemed more difficult, it was more difficult to have fun and be happy. Negative thought patterns that continue over long periods of time can begin to have an effect on your mental health, and contribute to mental illnesses such as anxiety and or depression.

At least, as parents, if we can identify the signs that our child may be lacking in confidence and self-esteem, we can start to work on strategies to build it back up.

Here are five of the most obvious red flags that your child may have low self-esteem.


They are Unable to Accept Criticism or Compliments

Taking criticism from others (no matter how constructive) can be hard for children (let’s be fair, we all know adults that struggle with it too), but children with low self-esteem also struggle to accept positive feedback too. The reason for this is quite simply that they don’t believe the compliment to be true. Children with low self-esteem may respond to compliments and praise by rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, avoiding eye contact and or disagreeing verbally.


They Withdraw from Social Situations

Shyness can sometimes be a sign that your child is avoiding social situations because they are worried what others will say or do, or what others think of them. It is possible for once sociable children to suddenly keep to themselves, and withdraw from friends and activities that they once enjoyed. If this is the case with your child, it is worth investigating why. Are they lacking in self-esteem and confidence, or is something more untoward going on such as bullying or sexual abuse.


They Are Overly Critical of Themselves

Does your child ever say things like “I am stupid,” “I can’t do it” or “I always do everything wrong?”

If your child is having issues with poor self image you may notice that they become overly critical of themselves, making negative comments about things such as their looks, personality or intelligence.


They Give Up on Challenges Easily

Children with low self-esteem can often give up on tasks before they have even properly attempted them. They can get frustrated very easily, and instead of attempting to tackle challenges they’ll shy away from them. This reaction often stems from a belief that they can’t do it, and a fear of failure.


They Are Aggressive or Bullying Towards Others

Some children with low self esteem can resort to bullying behaviour as a coping strategy to deflect their own feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability. They may target victims who they see as weaker in order to feel better about themselves.


Ways To Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem helps a child to feel good about themselves, be willing to try new things, and solve problems and challenges as they arise. A child that believes in themselves has a much more solid foundation for learning and development.

But as a parent, how do we help our children to develop good self-esteem?

Here are some suggestions:

Tell Them You Love Them!

We know it’s obvious, but we are going to say it anyway, as not everyone understands quite how important it can be for children to hear those words. You may think that you don’t need to say it because they ‘just know,’ but that isn’t always the case.

Involve Them in Chores Around the House. 

Yes, seriously! Getting your child involved in the smooth running of the household encourages them to feel like a valued and important part of the family.

Support Your Child to Try New Things/Hobbies

Help your child to try things that interest them and will be good at.  On the flip side of this, don’t pressure them into doing something they don’t want to or aren’t very good at.

Encourage Problem Solving

Encouraging your child to think about how to solve problems will benefit them both on a day to day basis i.e. with school work, whilst interacting with others etc, it willa so equip them with the tools to cope with life’s challenges into adolescence and adulthood.

Spend Quality Time with Them

Make the time to spend with your child, listen to them and make them feel loved, valued and understood. taking and interest in the things that are important to your child, tells your child that they are important to you.

Encourage Friendships

Get to know your child’s friends, and make them feel welcome.


Things Not to Do

Some parents may indirectly contribute to their child’s feelings of low self worth. Here’s our list of things to avoid and saying to children.

  • Don’t ignore them or treat them like a nuisance.
  • Don’t be irritable when your child wants your attention e.g. frowning, sighing, snapping at them.  (We all do this occasionally of course when we are busy or stressed, but a child that receives this response all the time will come to believe that they are a nuisance and not valued.
  • Don’t threaten to leave them if they don’t do what you want them to do.
  • Don’t give them labels such as ‘naughty,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘silly’ ‘sooky’ ‘useless’ ‘stupid’ etc. If they behave in a way that you don’t like don’t resort to name calling, instead explain what they should do instead.  Give them the tools to learn and grow instead of knocking them down.
  • Don’t compare them to other children, particularly brothers and sisters. Each child is an individual with different strengths and weaknesses.  Recognise each child’s successes and achievements instead of making negative comparisons that can not only impact your child’s self esteem but also cause unnecessary sibling rivalry.

Do you have a child with low self-esteem issues? What techniques do you use to give their self-esteem a boost?




Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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