Increase Child Self-Esteem

3 Ways to Increase Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Do you struggle to understand why your child says things like “I’m stupid,” “nobody likes me,” or “I’m not good enough.” Sometimes helping your child build their self-esteem can feel frustrating and difficult to navigate!

You are not alone in this struggle! As a child and adolescent therapist I work with a variety of emotional and behavioral issues and more often than not, lowered self-esteem accompanies these challenges.

What I have found to be effective is teaching your child how to replace their judgment words with feeling words. This can stop the cycle of self-criticism and lowered self-esteem. 

So, in this blog post, I’m going to walk you through 3 easy steps you can use to help your child gain confidence and build their self-esteem:

First, let’s understand the difference between a feeling word and a judgment word.

Feeling words describe our interpretation of our body sensations such as:

Sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, fearful, lonely, overwhelmed, resentful, or annoyed 

Judgment words describe our opinion of a situation, often assigning judgment to oneself or someone else such as: Betrayed, disliked, left out, unworthy, attacked, stupid, misunderstood, manipulated, or rejected. 

What I have found to be effective is teaching your child how to replace their judgment words with feeling words.

Second, help your child navigate this difference through one simple question:

When your child begins to describe themselves using judgment words, encourage them to reframe it like this:

“When you tell yourself that you are stupid, how do you feel?”

Third, meet the need(s) of the underlying feeling.


This can be a variety of things based on the feeling. Some examples could be giving them a hug, helping them solve a problem, or merely validating their feelings. 

So when your child says something like, “I feel stupid” you can respond with “Oh wow, stupid is a strong word. I wonder, what is the feeling behind that word? When you tell yourself you are stupid, how do you feel?”

It would be understandable If your child cannot come up with a new feeling or they stick with their original phrase of “I feel stupid”.  This is where you can offer an alternative feeling OR present them with a list of feeling words. If you need a list to print out I’ve added a link to a great one around this video.

You can say something like, “Maybe you feel overwhelmed and sad when your friends beat you in that game. I know you want to be good at that game. It makes sense that you would want to be good at that game!”

In this situation you validated their feelings of overwhelm and sadness.

When you name the underlying feeling and then meet the need within that feeling you will teach your child how to use feeling words instead of judgement words. Less judgement words will lead to less judgement and less self-criticism, which will then lead to increased confidence. 

Following these 3 steps will help you teach your child how to be more confident by knowing the difference between a feeling and a judgement. This will help increase your child’s self-esteem. 

If your child continues, however, to struggle with self-esteem issues, there might be more underlying issues to explore. Please reach out to a child therapist in your area or any one of us at Bloom Child Therapists.