WHY THIS TOPIC?:  Parents are right to worry about a child’s self esteem but too many parents and parent advisors think praise is the best pathway to high self esteem.  A recent article on the Kids Health webpage discussed self esteem and served as a prompt for this post.


The article made the point that self-esteem has at least two components:

Self-esteem also can be defined as feeling capable while also feeling loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities can also develop low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when a good balance is maintained.

More and more parent advisors are moving away from preaching love only.  The idea that feeling loved is enough has been too easily turned into the idea that a child must always be happy. I am sure a few of you know the line from that tear jerking movie “The Love Story.”

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Hog wash.

The hard part about developing a sense of achievement is that it usually involves frustration, failure, and sometimes tears.


I have three suggestions for dealing with the bumps on the road to achievment.

Tip one: Learn and practice Calming Breath.  It is a simple self-self soothing exercise.

  1. Take a long slow breath in.
  2. Hold it until a bit of tension builds.
  3. Breath out slowly.
  4. Smile gently.

This can be enhanced by adding a calming slogan. My three favorites are:

  1. Doing what I can.
  2. Now is not forever.
  3. It’s all all right.

Teaching a child Calming Breath can start when he or she is about two. You can teach “Big breathe in. Hold. Blow out.”  It will take a while to learn and you have to model it.

As soon as you see the child can follow those commands add counting to make the breaths longer and slower.  Also count for the Hold.  A count of three is a good beginning. Then move up.  When that is mastered add the smile.

Tip Two: Embed helpful self talk into your child’s brain.  How? Find some slogans and use them frequently. My mother embedded “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” so deeply into my brain, it almost automatically sounds if shyness or fear of failure keeps me back.  She must have started early, and of course, as a teen I would roll my eyes and sigh.  Need a few examples?  Here are some that made my kids roll their eyes, but I also know helped get them through rough times:

  • Pop up.
  • Breathe.
  • Learn from this.
  • Life goes on.
  • New stuff is hard until it becomes old stuff.
  • If you  learn,  you haven’t failed.
  • Trying teaches you what you can and cannot do.
  • Remember your strengths.
  • We all have talents, but not all the same ones.
  • Remember what matters.

Tip Three: Acknowledge pain. Short praises are best, followed by silence.

  • Ouch.
  • That hurts.
  • Life is far from fair.
  • Failing to get where you want is painful.
  • Some days it goes your way, some days it doesn’t.

If the chiild uses your silence to vent, listen, nod your heard, make comforting sounds. When she seems to have wound down, ask “What next? How can I help?”

Tip Four: Praise what matters: trying,  good sportsmenship, kindness.

Tip Five:  Provide good times.  Good times and good memories offset bad times and bad memories.  When a child gets cut from a team, dumped by a friend, fails a test, purposively suggest doing something for fun. “Lets put that behind for a while; I feel like baking cookies, want to help?”  “When I’m feeling down and bad about myself, it helps to do something fun.  What can you do to cheer you up?”


Like this post or share it with someone who might find it helpful.  You will be helping that person, yourself, and me. Karma dictates  kindness is always returned.

You will also be practicing one of the 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises and strengthening your emotional fitness.

Click here to view all Daily Emotional Fitness  Exercises.  If regular practice of the 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises does not improve the quality of your life, more might be needed.  That is the time to think about counseling.

Good luck, life is a struggle, caring for children harder than you expect AND despite the struggle, life as a parent is also wonderful.  


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