How to Build a Three-Year-Old's Self Esteem

It is important for children to feel good about themselves. Children with healthy self-esteem are more likely to become productive adults. Parents play a key role in building their child's self-esteem. According to California family therapist Jane Nelsen, in order to have good self-esteem, children need to have a feeling of belonging, a belief in their abilities and the knowledge that they can make valuable contributions.


    • 1

      Show your child that you love him. Give him hugs, kisses and cuddle time. Get down to his level and make eye contact with him. Spend time with him. Treat all of your children fairly; don't play favorites.

    • 2

      Take the time to listen to your child and teach him words to express his feelings. Allow him to ask questions and do your best to answer them. Talk about difficulties that you face and how you resolve them.

    • 3

      Set boundaries for behavior and be consistent. Establish routines for how and when things are done in your home. Knowing what to expect will give your child a sense of security.

    • 4

      Deal with your frustrations without yelling or calling your child "bad." Instead, explain that the child has made a poor choice. Correct your child and impose logical consequences when necessary; for example, throwing a tantrum when asked to turn off the television may result in the child losing his television privilege for the rest of the day. Make sure that you can live with the consequence you impose.

    • 5

      Teach your child life skills, such as getting dressed or setting the table. Give your child the opportunity to try new things on his own. Allow him to overcome small difficulties without stepping in. Give him opportunities to explore and develop his unique talents.

    • 6

      Praise your child for specific things that he is doing well. Tell your spouse in front of your child about good things that your child has done.

    • 7

      Allow your child to make choices between two things that are acceptable to you. For example, ask, "Would you like to wear your red sweater or your blue sweater?" rather than, "What would you like to wear today?"

    • 8

      Give your child the freedom to make mistakes sometimes. Let your child know that everyone makes mistakes, including you. Help your child think of what he can do differently next time.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that children do not always need to be happy or get their way to have good self-esteem; it's normal and healthy for them to hear "no" when they want something that's not good for them. In addition, feeling bad when they've done something wrong can lead them to make better choices the next time. Confessing wrong actions can actually help restore a child's self-esteem.
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  • Photo Credit four year old image by Empath from

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