Psychologist tips: Developing self-esteem
Psychologist tips: Developing self-esteem

Dear Parents and Students,

we present another article written by our psychologist, Ms Karolina Ciesielka.
This time Ms Karolina wrote about developing self-esteem. 




Developing Self-Esteem

Self-Esteem is what we think about ourselves. The belief, that we are a valuable and inimitable person helps in dealing with challenges on a daily basis and supports us in building relationships. The faith in our capabilities and skills is a foundation of creating self-efficacy, it is an important step to pursue aspirations, and to feel satisfied with achievements. Moreover, identifying oneself’s strengths and weaknesses in a proper way, makes goals more realistic and more probable to execute them, without causing excessive frustration.

Knowledge about oneself  is gathered from the course of action and how we measure it, as well as from the observation of others reactions to our behaviour - they become our “social mirror”. Feedback from other people delivers a lot of important information about the way we are perceived. In terms of our assessments, they are dependent on our beliefs, which are being shaped from an early age.

What could be done to support the development of self-esteem?

The key role in developing self-esteem in children plays parents and other significant individuals. Children moud the knowledge of themselves from the very beginning, which is why it is good to include some aspects when it comes to raising them.


Expressing unconditional feelings and positive regard for children, supports positive attitude towards themselves, secures atmosphere of leeway and a willingness to take action. Even if it turns out to be a failure, it will not cause a prolonging negative consequences. Children need to know that they are still valued even if they do not get the best results in Math or in a school project. Probably both of these activities required from them to put effort, no matter what was the outcome.

Setting boundaries

Setting consistent and clear boundaries provides children with a predictable and safe environment in which they have conditions to take new challenges. When children understand boundaries and know expectations, they are more likely to obey them. We should be consistent in terms of given rules - in case of breaking them, our reactions should be understandable for children and administered in a respectful way. Being stable and emotionally warm in terms of rules, guarantees a firm foundation for children to set their own boundaries and to recognizing behaviors that invades them.

Praising efforts

 All children’s efforts should be acknowledged, under any circumstances. By doing that, they are reassured that the actions they take are meaningful and even the smallest achievement is a step to a potential success. Every child has its own, individual needs and possibilities so the praise should be adjusted to them. When we notice any improvement, it should be stressed what exactly was accomplished (“Your essay about giraffes was incredible, I really appreciate your effort”).


 Adults should carefully listen what children think and need. This approach is applicable especially when children experience strong negative emotions, for example as the reason of getting worse than usual mark. When such situation takes place, it is reasoned to express our readiness to listen and accept children’s emotions (“I can see that you’re sad, would you like to tell me what happend?”). By doing this, adults provide secure conditions for children to voice their worries if they need that. This is not advisable to indicate how children should or should not feel, or to compare them to others (“You shouldn’t be sad, Mark’s got a worse results”, “Don’t be silly, it’s not that bad”, “Come on, this is not the worst thing”). Such approach invalidates their feelings and proves that they are not eligible to experience negative emotions.


 When children get into trouble, it happens that adults are ready to take an immediate action to solve the problem. Unfortunately, this kind of reactions make children unable to solve problems by themselves and to think about potential consequences. It is quite the opposite - by giving them ready solution, adults reinforce the lack of children’s self-efficacy and competency. When the problem appears, let’s hold off any reactions, and give children the time and possibility to find a way out. If they have difficulties in this area, we can offer our help, by giving them some subtle hints (“Is there anything that helped you in the past in similar situation”, what would [favourite character from cartoon/book/movie] do?”). Reinforcing such attitudes makes it more possible that in the future children will manage better in a similar situations.


Developing self-esteem is a complex process which should be supported from an early age. Having said that, it is highly important to enhance children in developing their competency, building trustful relationships and setting appropriate boundaries to protect their private space, as well as satisfying their social-emotional needs.


Fennel, M. (1997). Low Self Esteem: A Cognitive Perspective. Behavioural
and Cognitive Psychotherapy,1-25.
Sabates, R., Hammond, C. (2008). The Impact of Lifelong Learning on
Happiness and Wellbeing. Institute of Education Leicester.
Young, E., Hoffman, L. (2004). Self-Esteem in Children: Strategies for Parents and Educators. Brigham Young University.