Parents' Corner

Self-Esteem Begins to Develop During the Toddler Years

Posted by David Smith on Wed, Feb 09, 2022 @ 06:00 PM

When young children start to get a sense of self-esteem, it helps them to continue to learn and
grow. Experts define this trait as liking yourself and having confidence when trying new
things—and, when a child succeeds and feels a sense of accomplishment, this can build a
healthy sense of self-confidence.

“Children need to feel good about themselves. A positive self-image has long-term effects on
behavior, achievement, and even health. Self-confidence is not inherited; it is learned.” (Urban
Child Institute).


Research shows that children who develop good self-esteem bounce back from making
mistakes more easily and can become more self-motivated. They’ll typically feel more
respected, have more confidence when building friendships, and will make better decisions,
overall, able to avoid peer pressure more successfully.

That’s what you want for your children—but the question is, as a parent, how can you help?
According to Very Well Family, it’s important to let your children know of your unconditional
love. Hug them, cuddle while you read a book, and verbally express your love. This parental
love will help to serve as the foundation of healthy relationships throughout their lives.

A parenting site from Australia offers useful tips on how to encourage exploration during this
time of life. For example, give your child “safe, toddler-friendly options” to give them a sense of
control. These choices can be as simple as “Do you want grape or strawberry jelly on your P&J
sandwich”? or “Which of these two stuffed animals would you like to take to bed?”

In fact, whenever safety and discipline are not issues, toddlers should be encouraged to lead
and explore. At this phase of development, parents can help their children to develop positive
self-esteem by allowing them to develop at their own pace and cheering on accomplishments.

That said, Baby Center notes, you’ll need to set limits and then enforce them. If, for example,
the household rule is that everyone needs to eat snacks in the kitchen, it can be confusing to
allow your toddler to sometimes eat them in the living room. Setting and keeping sensible rules
gives young children a sense of security, which contributes to the growth of confidence and

Find activities that may be a bit challenging for your toddler, Positive Parenting Ally
recommends. For example, suggest that your child build a tower with toy bricks to see how high
it can go. Or read a storybook to your toddler and ask for comments on the pictures.
When doing chores, give your toddler a cloth and ask for help in dusting safe spaces or, after
you take the laundry out of the dryer, ask your child for help in identifying which items belong to
which family member.

Finally, offer well-balanced praise. Although cheering on your young child is important, Today’s
Parent shares how too much praise can backfire. If you always tell your youngster that they’re
doing a wonderful job, there isn’t much motivation to keep learning and improving. It can also
impart the message that they always need to be perfect, something no one can accomplish—or
this can lead to arrogance.

Praise effort, says, rather than outcomes. “I saw how hard you tried to stay calm
on the long car ride.”

Here’s one final tip about praise and how it can contribute to self-esteem: be specific. “I liked
how you shared the ball with your sister today” is better than “Good job.” Or “I see how you
added windows, doors, and a chimney to your drawing of our house” is more specific than "Nice picture."

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Topics: Child Behavior, Skill Building

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