How to Build Self-Esteem in Children

We all want to see our kids happy and healthy

But this isn’t something to take for granted. We can (and need to) instill it into our children because there is no guarantee they will grow up with a good level of self-esteem.

Self-Esteem – The Quick and Simple Definition

Self-esteem often gets used as a blanket term, which covers things like:

  • Pride
  • Confidence
  • Positive thinking
  • Belief in one’s abilities
  • Self-worth

All positive attributes that we want our children to have. But the question then is how do we give it to them?

11 Ways HOW to Build Self-Esteem in Young People

1. Modelling  (Behavior)

Modelling behavior is a great way to instil self esteem. It shows kids that something (what is being asked for or desired behavior) can be done and exactly how to do it. And it makes it relatively simple for them, all they need to do is follow your actions, and then they will have the same outcome.

It’s a great way to teach the belief in one’s own abilities (self efficiacy – that they can complete a task)

Woodworking is a great medium to demonstrate behavior. How to use tools, how to act around tools, how to take care of tools etc.

Not only around how to use tools but also how to act around tools and.respect for the tools….

Kids learn to deal with things that adults use that are ‘dangerous’

  • Gives them the ‘i can do that’ feeling
  • Possibly overcomes some anxiety and fear

2. Bonding and Group Activities

Kids going through experiences with someone else can help shape their self image. It can help them see what is acceptable and help them see how other people think and operate.

Can be something that kids bond over. An experience. Can help build friendships

The project itself will be a reminder that they can do it, and they did do it

3. Practise Problem-Solving

Pilots use flight simulators, car companies use crash test dummies, sportspeople use practice games. All to discover problems and what can be improved upon.

Kids can and should practise experiencing problems. It encourages them to think calmly about a problem, and not let it consume them.

If we are not good at solving problems, sometimes we can come up against them and it will stop us in our tracks. But this isn’t a good way to be. Teaching kids that when they have problems that they can take a step back, work it out and carry on is essential for self esteem.

These stopping in our tracks moments can be the start of a slide of self esteem. ‘I’m not good enough, if i was smarter i wouldn’t have this problem, little johnny doesn’t have this issue…etc.’

A child who has experienced problems before, and solved them before is a more confident child.

4. Build Skills

Having skills gives people more choices. Not having a choice can make anyone feel powerless, stressed and anxious.

Skills are something that your child can feel good about, and that is important. They can act as a springboard for other learning areas.

Skills can also build a sense of purpose, and in this way can make a child feel worthy of love.

5. Project Based Learning

Schools are thought to be teacher talking to students and students learning. But this approach isn’t that great for self-esteem. It’s almost assuming knowledge when you teach someone like this.

But learning in a project based environment is different. There’s a goal that is worked towards. There isn’t any assumption of knowledge, people come in and do there best and reach an outcome.

Project based learning is more _ on how people really think. So kids will be more presupposed to follow it.

6. Evidence of Making a Meaningful Contribution

Remember when your art work would come home from school and be put on the fridge for everyone to see.

There’s a classic Australian movie (The Castle) that encapsulates this feeling. Where Darryl Kerrigan (the father) says of a present he got ‘this is going straight to the pool room’. The room where all his prized possessions are kept.

It’s a feeling that young people strive for. Your child very badly wants to see evidence that they are making a meaningful contribution. When he or she makes a project they can see that it is having an impact then it will boost their self esteem.

They can see what they did, what impact it is having and be proud of it. Every time. That continual re-enforcement is great for building self-esteem.

7. Independent Learning (With Support)

Making mistakes is an important part of self esteem. It isn’t something to be avoided but a place where self esteem can build.

We’ve all seen those T-shirts where they have an event or something like that on them (like a band touring or an exercise boot camp). The person is saying I did this and I survived. It builds character and self esteem.

Giving kids the ability to make mistakes is like a trial run. It isn’t about the particular project but how it is dealt with. Or as my old cabinet making teaching told me

Éverybody makes mistakes. How you judge a cabinetmaker is how he (or she) goes about fixing those mistakes.

Old saying in cabinetmaking

Giving kids the ability to make mistakes, and then work out how to fix them is a great way to build self-esteem.

8. Give Instant Feedback

An activity that puts your child in the pilot seat and gives him or her instant feedback is vital towards building self-esteem.

The longer the feedback is withheld, the more likely the child is to read into it, and then have trouble correcting the behavior.

Instant feedback allows the child to have no illusions or wrong thoughts that the problem what was actually the problem ‘i.e. the dividing of the correct number’, and not some other thought ‘i.e. Math is too hard, I am just no good at it’.

In this way, activities that give instant feedback help your child really learn the correct behavior, and build skills, etc.

9. Ability Level Appropriate Tasks

Making progress helps to build self-esteem. It contributes towards ‘self-efficacy’ (your belief and confidence in your ability to achieve a particular outcome).

Having just the right mix of familiar and unfamiliar helps build momentum, supports learning as well as motivates learners to carry on with their education.

10. Use Higher Order Thinking Skills

Evaluating and creating are considered higher order thinking skills.

When young people get stuck in the lower half of the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid (see below) they can cannot have an impact in the world around them. This leads them to view the world as a spectator.

Bloom’s taxonomy is taught to teachers as a way to visualize how people learn, and organize thinking skills

Using higher order thinking skills gives young people control, as well as the ability to make decisions and have an impact.

11. Perspective Building Experiences

Perspective helps create real pictures in our minds of what definitions of words and language really mean.

Kids may hear about things first ‘i.e. woodworking tools are dangerous’ so they stay away. But when they go through the experience (in this case of being shown and using the tools) it helps build and add to that definition. Yes woodworking tools are dangerous if they are not used correctly.

These more complete definitions give more clarity and allow young people to do more within safe boundaries.


All of the above strategies help build a child’s;

  • Ability to assert him or herself
  • Competence
  • Feelings of self-Worthiness
  • Autonomy (which is a big one for low self esteem children)
  • And many others

And makes them feel:

  • Loved
  • Dignified
  • Accepted
  • Responsible adults!

And all young people deserve that.

What You Can Do Today to Build A Young Persons Self Esteem

As a technology teacher, I believe in the power of teaching through a medium.

Woodwork is a great example of a medium that teaches many lessons, builds a variety of skills, develops the brain in the right ways and promotes the growth of self-esteem.

In fact it uses all the 11 ways to build self-esteem listed above.

You can find more information about it here:

How to Start Parent/Child Woodworking Projects that Build Self-Esteem


I referred to my copy of The 6-Pillars of Self Esteem to write this article, as well as this post from Psychology Today