Filling the Self-esteem bucket

Credit to Alvin Price

Credit to Alvin Price

Someone shared this onto my Facebook page the other day.  I thought – that is so true.  Then someone commented that such a thing is easier said than done because of other parents who raise their children to be mean (she actually used a stronger word here!)  and it got me thinking how right she is.  When you have a child who extremely introverted and socially awkward, it leaves them open to abuse by such children.  They become the bearers of others’ anger and hate and hurt.  And it’s because they don’t fight back.  So, how do you fill up the bucket of self-esteem for a child whose bucket is, well, probably a lot bigger than it should be?  As someone who has had a fair amount of experience with this,I already have some thoughts on it so I came up with two lists.  The first is a list on things we should do to help that bucket become full to overflowing.  the second is a list of what we shouldn’t do but that we too often will do – and these are things that will actually poke holes into that bucket.  As parents, we never want to believe that we can drain our own child’s self-esteem but we can, and we do.  So, here goes:

How to fill the bucket of self-esteem:

  • Starting with the basics, tell them you love them – EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
  • Tell them they’re beautiful mo matter what
  • Praise them, loud and often – in schoolwork, homework, tests, for something they wrote or drew, when doing after school activities or sports, when playing (on their own or with friends), if they tried their best in anything.  Whatever it is, even if it seems trivial or insignificant, if you praise them for it, the level in the bucket will rise.
  • Allow them to make choices.  Even if it’s for something small, let them decide.  Then, when it comes to bigger things like friends and choosing to do the right thing over the wrong thing, they will be more prepared for it.
  • Linked to the above is guiding them in what is right and wrong but let them make mistakes so they can learn to fix them.  Now, I’m not saying to act as an irresponsible parent and allow your child to be hurt or do something dangerous – obviously as an adult you know there are limits.
  • And once again, linked to the above, is setting boundaries.  Children actually love boundaries because then it is easier for them to follow the right path.  But don’t make those boundaries too tight or you will stifle them
  • Encourage them to do new things and take on new challenges.  My daughter hates trying anything new.  Because she always envisages the worst possible outcome.  So if you encourage them in small doses, they will eventually open up to new ideas.  My daughter loves water and swimming.  So I encouraged her to join a swim club but she was adamant she wouldn’t do it.  So I encouraged her in small doses – by showing her swimming shows on tv and showing her swimming heroes doing their thing; by praising her every time she swims; by reminding her how much she loves the water.  She is now more open to the idea.  But it will still be her decision.
  • Being positive by smiling and using positive words and phrases – and not allowing them to dwell on negative thoughts and words but turn the negativity into something positive.  I found that a positivity box – which contains positive phrases and phrases of encouragement – is very useful in counteracting negative thoughts.
  • Don’t allow other adults, whether it’s other children’s’ parents or staff at the school, to put your child down.  If you get wind of anything like this, stamp it out immediately.  Children always look up to adults and an adult who says negative things about a child will very quickly, and sometimes irreversibly, damage that child’s self-esteem.  Even if that adult is a friend or relative – remember that your child comes first, before your connections and ties.
  • Take them out to different places as often as you can.  The more they’re out and about, the more their confidence will grow.
  • Teach them that it’s okay to have an opinion that is different from their friends.  And that it’s okay to stand up to their friends when they feel unhappy or uncomfortable about something.  This is something we’re working very hard on at the moment.  It’s best to help them gain this kind of self-confidence when they’re young or they could wind up being bullied or manipulated by those same friends or even other friends(or so-called friends) as they get older.
  • Show them that it’s a good thing to be friends with or even just friendly to a lot of different people.  The more positive people that your child has around them, the more their self-esteem will grow.
  • Tell them to always look up.  My daughter has a tendency to look at her feet.  Every time I see her do it, I tell her to look up.  And I have said to her that when you look up, you see the world and it’s people.  When you look down, you only see your feet. Simply looking up can greatly improve a person’s self-confidence.
  • Encourage them to talk to you about anything and everything.  make them feel safe with you.  Be their confidant.

Now for the things to avoid doing:

  • Avoid being negative about yourself.  If your child sees you being self-deprecating, they will follow suite.
  • Don’t badmouth other children or their parents in front of your child.  I will admit I have done this before when a parent made me so angry with the way she treated my child.  But it didn’t make my daughter feel better.  In fact, it had the opposite effect as she thought there must be something wrong with her if mum had to defend her.
  • Don’t shout for no reason.  This is sometimes hard when we’re angry.  But if you’re angry at yourself or someone else, you cannot take that out on your child.
  • Don’t make their decisions for them – especially ones regarding their socialisation.  It is hard enough for your child to fit in without having their parent’s interfering.  And I know a few parents who are just like this.  Those are the ones who turn their children into nasty children and sometimes bullies.
  • Don’t ever criticize something they have tried hard to achieve – even if they failed miserably at achieving it.  Criticising them with not build character, it will only lead them to criticise themselves and everything they do.
  • Don’t ever call them names.  This one is rather obvious but name calling can extend to things like saying that they’re being stupid.  Say that often enough and they will start to believe it.
  • Don’t trivialise something that’s bothering them.  I think as adults we often do this without realising it.  They may mention something that happened at school and the adult responds with “Oh don’t worry about it” or “I’m sure it was nothing”.  It may be nothing to you but if it’s bothering them, it’s not nothing to them.  And you will break their confidence by making them feel that they’re not important, that their concerns are not important and they may start to think that there is a problem with them if they are worrying about something that is ‘unimportant’.

Well, those are my lists.  What do you think?  Can you think of anything to add?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright © 060315 by Karen Payze



  1. What do I think? I think you are wise beyond your years and an excellent parent. I was fortunate enough to have had parents like you and am forever grateful for the things they taught me by following just the routes you have laid out for what to do and what not to do.

    • Thank you very much. They say being a parent is the hardest job in the world and sometimes I think that they may just be right 😊

  2. Sound advice. Not easy to raise a child. 😀

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    • Thanks 😀

  3. Mia Hilber

    Wise words Karen! I would just like to add that praising your child’s achievments too much, and forgetting to praise “themselves” might lead too children with a big ego and yet low self esteem. One thing to prevent that from happening that we practise at the preschool were I work is that we always great the kids in the morning with : I am happy to see you! Nice to meet you today!
    Hopefully this way they will feel that we like them no matter what!

    • That sounds like a great method! Thank you so much for visiting 🙂

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