YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM:
YOU HELPING OR HURTING?
What does it take to raise competent,
children who can feel a healthy respect for themselves?
Research has shown over and over that good parenting
involves two basic components. One will not surprise you,
but the other one may catch you off guard. We are very
aware today that children are born with different
personalities and temperaments that are not created by
their parents. Nevertheless, parents do make a big
difference, and here in the United States we need to get
back on track regarding what children’s self‐esteem
is really all about. What are the two parenting
ingredients that make for good self‐esteem?
First, good parents are warm and sensitive to a child’s
needs. They understand their child’s positive as well as
negative feelings. They are comforting in times of crisis
and pain, as well as appreciative in times of triumph and
accomplishment. They are supportive of a child’s
individuality and encourage his or her growing
independence.” That’s no big news flash.
GOOD PARENTS ARE ALSO
What we often overlook, though, is
that good parents are also demanding. They clearly
communicate high—but not unrealistic—expectations for
their children’s behavior. Good behavior and achievements
are appreciated and reinforced when they occur. When the
kids act up, on the other hand, Mom and Dad respond with
firm limits, but not with fits of temper or righteous
indignation. After a child makes a mistake, the parents’
message is, ‘I’m sure you’ll do better next time.’”
Parents whose child‐rearing
philosophy involves both warmth and “demandingness”
tend to produce competent children. There are of course no
guarantees, but their kids will have a better chance of
becoming more self‐reliant,
and happier. They will have a better chance of being
accepted and well liked by their peers, and of having a
sense of belonging.
Sometimes, though, parents have blinders on. We’re
busy, we don’t have time—or
take the time—to do some of
the things that will
really foster self‐esteem.
Such as what? Such as helping our children develop
social skills and academic and physical competence. Your
kids’ self esteem is ultimately going to be earned or not
earned in the real world—not in a fantasy world.
KIDS DO BETTER WHEN THEY
The demanding part of the
parenting equation implies not only that parents ask more
of their kids, but also that parents ask more of
themselves. We often follow the misguided belief that self‐esteem
and creativity are both higher when children can ‘do their
own thing’ and when they are not exposed to external
limits imposed by adults. On the contrary, kids feel
better about themselves and perform better, creatively and
otherwise, when they learn the boundaries for reasonable
behavior. The world has all kinds of limits and rules, and
parents are the ones who introduce children to life’s
boundaries. “How parents establish rules and set limits—or
fail to set limits—has a tremendous effect on the self‐esteem
of a child. Your kids may not like all the rules and
regulations you must teach them, but if they don’t
recognize and work within these constraints, they will get
However, not all self‐esteem
building strategies involve unpleasant or hard work. One
of the best “tactics” for encouraging healthy self‐respect
in children is fun. We need to take time with our kids.
Keep in mind that one‐on‐one
time having fun together is one of the most potent self‐esteem
builders. That’s one parent with one child. Kids really
like having a parent all to themselves.
What is the quickest and easiest way to learn a
warm and demanding parenting approach? The program,
Effective Discipline for Children 2-12,
embodies what warm and demanding parenting is all about.
steps, Controlling Obnoxious Behavior, Encouraging Good
Behavior, and Strengthening Your Relationship With Your
Child, require that parents be supportive and nurturing
while at the same time they are expecting constructive
behavior as well as hard work from their kids.
ELEMENTS OF HEALTHY
is based on four elements:
Good relationships with other people
2. Competence in work and self‐management
Physical skills and caring for one’s body
Character: courage, effort, following the rules and
concern for others
Phelan, T. (2009). Homework do’s and don’ts. Parent
Magic Newsletter, June 2009. Retrieved from