Whenever I work with any child, a major therapeutic goal I have for any child is working on developing and growing self-esteem. There are many therapeutic techniques I integrate and personalize for the child I am working with. I often simultaneously work with the child’s parents to provide pointers on how to help achieve goals progressively. To anyone who has children, works with children, or is in any capacity caring for children, I recommend to follow these following techniques to help begin to foster self-esteem in a child.
There are many conditions that need to be provided by caregivers which will enable a child to explore, grow, all the while feeling safe, secure, and ultimately confident in themselves. Caregivers need to provide consistent opportunities in all environments a child encounters: school, home, and every setting in between. I believe building a child’s self-esteem comes from active, reliable involvement by caregivers offering experiences for the child to build feelings of self-efficacy and secure attachments with their trusted adults/caregivers and the world around them. A child’s self-esteem grows from supportive caregivers in the home and school environments. Fostering the development of a child’s confidence involves many techniques, and I recommend integrating the following:
As a child is learning a new skill/idea/task, support should be offered to them as needed throughout the acquisition process. While the child learns something new, the support by parents/caregivers should lessen gradually as the child’s abilities increase, until the new skill can be performed all on their own. This process builds confidence, as the child realizes they can master a skill without complete involvement by a caregiver, and they come to believe in their own capabilities and competence. During this process, the child is able to have confidence in a supportive caregiver nearby should they need the extra support; therefore, children experience the feeling of confidence in a safe, emotionally supportive environment to master the new, vulnerable situation of learning anything new.
Positive Reinforcement/Praise, Empathic Responses, + Unconditional Love
As a child works diligently towards their goal, and any step towards the desired target behavior/goal, positive praise should be administered throughout. When a caregiver offers positive praise/ feedback to a child, a child becomes aware of their growing skills and capabilities, which is a powerful realization for a child to have about themselves. As they work through the vulnerable experience of learning a new skill, task, or experience, the child is able to provide themselves with a set of positive cognitive patterns they can provide to themselves the next time they encounter a new, vulnerable task. The words of affirmation, empathy, and praise a caregiver offers provides a foundation from which a child develops their own inner cognitions and beliefs about themselves – critical and powerful for building self-esteem.
Consistency by all caregivers
If scaffolding and positive praise is provided consistently, children feel deeply supported and positive about their well-being and self-worth, achieving a true understanding that they are capable of many skills (self-efficacy). The convergence of all these techniques provides a child with the foundation for inner self-confidence and self-compassion. When a caregiver provides scaffolding, positive reinforcement and empathic responses, children ultimately learn how to practice resilience by knowing they can persevere through difficult tasks.
Please feel free to contact myself or any clinicians at Naperville Counseling Center with any questions, or for more ideas and techniques to integrate with your children and/or the children in your life. There are, of course, more techniques and ideas to integrate into a child’s life!