Building your child’s healthy self-esteem early

Self-esteem is a confidence in one’s own worth, abilities, self-respect and overall understanding of one’s self. It is a term that many people are familiar with because it impacts day-to-day living both consciously and subconsciously.

Maneuvering through the world can be tricky for any child, which is why being equipped with healthy self-esteem is an invaluable asset to have in order to be successful. The formulation of concepts such as self-worth and success begins from birth.

Children with high self-esteems are more likely to be realists with a sense of optimism. In contrast, a poor self-esteem often leads to health and mental setbacks. The positive and negative lenses through which individuals perceive themselves and the world around them are directly impacted by self-esteem.

“Relationships that babies and toddlers develop with their parents and their primary caregivers early on gives children a sense of who they are in the world, what they can expect from other people, how they can trust other people and how other people will meet their needs,” said Molly Strothkamp, a child therapist at Southwest Human Development’s Good Fit Counseling Center. “It carries on with them through their childhood and into adulthood.”

A healthy self-esteem is the product of a balance of feelings such as being happy, loved, and confident in one’s own abilities. Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in the development of self-esteem and have the ability to cultivate healthy mental development from the time of birth through daily activities.

“It can be empowering for parents to know that responding to your baby’s cues, picking your baby up when he or she is crying, and other everyday actions lay that foundation for a healthy self-esteem,” Strothkamp said.

The earliest years of life are the most fundamental when it comes to solidifying these foundations. When the primary caregiver is responsive, a child feels a sense of security. Feeling safe plays an imperative role in the development of self-esteem.

However, there is not a one-size-fits-all course of action for every parent and child.

“The most important thing is that parents take the time to learn their baby individually, what their needs are, how they let you know those needs, and then respond,” Strothkamp points out. “It’s not a matter of reading special books or doing special things, but rather our everyday interactions with our babies and toddlers.

As children mature into adolescents and adults it is significantly more difficult to rewire mindsets and perceptions as the years progress.

Although cementing a positive foundation for healthy self-esteem lays the groundwork for a lifetime, the outcome for children who have a difficult start in life is not set in stone. Opportunities are available for children who have self-esteem complications as result of unfavorable scenarios.

Southwest Human Development offers many programs and services dedicated to child development and early mental health programs to support healthy development, including the Good Fit Counseling Center and Smart Support mental health consultation for professionals.



All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care.  Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article.  You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance.  Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.