Self-esteem in children: methods of determination and correction

Thinking about children's self-esteem, assessing its level and caring about its adequacy, many of us think that we need to seriously worry and worry only if it is underestimated. None of us want our child to be tormented by loneliness. However, children feel “humiliated and insulted” not only with an underestimated, but also with an overestimated assessment of their abilities/capabilities. The latter, by the way, can and, as most often happens, suffer from this even more. A child with high self-esteem needs no less help and, as already mentioned in the article “A child’s self-esteem and methods for increasing it to an adequate level,” only we, the parents, can best provide it.

How is it formed?

A small child’s opinion of himself begins to form at the age of 2.5 - 3 years through experiencing a crisis of independence, when he wants to try to do everything himself. The second indicator of formation is praise from adults; this is the main incentive for further performance of certain actions.

Often at this age, kids do certain things in order to get attention, first for their mother: the child draws and runs and shows his image to his mother, or hangs on the horizontal bar with one hand and shouts to his mother to see how he can. Intrudes into adult conversations with his “urgent” request.

It is important to pay attention to all this, not to ignore, but to correct, stimulate, encourage, explain, and gently guide in the right direction.

I repeat, first this is for the mother and the close circle where the child revolves, then for the educator, teacher, coach, and then for the girl she likes, and so on. This is how our life develops, and all this is layered, formed, and it is molded, like a layer cake, a person’s self-esteem.

Features of self-esteem in children

Self-esteem and the ability to adequately perceive oneself changes as a person grows older. But the influence of the type of upbringing on a child’s self-esteem is very great, so parents need to monitor age-related changes and, if necessary, adjust them.

In preschool age

The self-esteem of a preschool child is often inflated. It's quite normal. In the initial period of life, children learn to evaluate themselves and do not always do it correctly, especially if in the family their every action is accompanied by enthusiastic comments.

In the absence of excesses in upbringing (both connivance and praise, and humiliation), the preschooler’s high self-esteem will return to normal over time. A child's lack of self-esteem at this age is more dangerous.

Having noticed signs of low self-esteem, you need to reconsider educational measures and the manner of communication with the baby, since getting rid of this problem becomes much more difficult over the years. Parents must help raise the child’s self-esteem; he cannot cope with this task on his own.

At primary school age

What are the features of self-esteem in children of primary school age? When studying in the first grade, a child usually overestimates himself. In the second, there is a tendency towards a moderate decrease in self-esteem. In the third, the student evaluates his abilities and capabilities normally or underestimated. Cases of high self-esteem at this age are rare.

The formation of self-esteem during this period is significantly influenced by the educational process, in particular, school performance. Children of primary school age are, in fact, still babies, so with growing uncertainty and a decrease in self-esteem in a child, you should not focus on academic failures.

At middle school age

In middle school, children tend to evaluate themselves objectively. Natural maturation occurs, the ability to self-analysis improves.

But low self-esteem in a child of middle school age is possible and is more often associated with difficulties in communicating with peers than with the educational process. The opinion of his classmates about him comes to the fore in the value system.

The child grows into a teenager, but still needs the approval and attention of his parents. At this stage, it is important to show interest in his hobbies and provide more opportunities for the development of independence. Total control and excessive demands for academic performance reduce a teenager’s self-esteem.

In high school age

Low self-esteem in a child in high school is a common phenomenon. This is facilitated by the first unsuccessful loves, fears associated with exams and the upcoming choice of profession.

To maintain a normal level of self-esteem among high school students, it is better to refrain from criticizing their appearance, friends and hobbies. If the main cause of increased anxiety is studying, you need to try to explain the uselessness of self-flagellation and suggest ways to solve the problem.

How to determine?

To determine your child’s self-esteem, you don’t have to be a child psychologist; all kinds of tests, games will help you, and the child’s behavior itself will tell you about it.

In a child and in an adult it can be overestimated, underestimated and adequate.

With normal (adequate) self-esteem, a person evaluates his strengths and capabilities as they really are, without any offense towards himself or others. This does not lead to discomfort. An adult, knowing his strengths and weaknesses, can use them for his own personal purposes. Such people are cheerful and optimistic.

What can't you do?

It will not be possible to increase self-esteem and restore confidence to a child if:

  • Saying that other children are stronger, smarter, more successful than him. By doing this you underestimate his importance as a person.
  • Praise for something for which the child did not make an effort, as well as out of pity.
  • Criticize his crafts, drawings or grades at school if he tries, but you don’t like the result.
  • Intimidate for educational purposes: “Now I’ll get the belt!”, “You’ll get it from me!” etc.
  • Punish for misconduct physically and humiliate verbally.

It is possible to raise a harmoniously developed personality from a child - the main thing is not to overdo it with criticism and praise. Lack of self-confidence, as well as excessive self-confidence, do not benefit a person at any age.

Author: Yana Semich, especially for

Signs of high self-esteem

High self-esteem is no better than low self-esteem, since the other side of the same coin. The opposite extreme.

  1. Such a child is too selfish and arrogant.
  2. Puts himself above others, does not take into account other people's opinions.
  3. Does not take advice or criticism.
  4. Becomes a frequent provocateur of conflict situations with peers.
  5. Failure is perceived as a negative set of circumstances, and not a lack of skills or knowledge.
  6. Doesn't know how to be grateful.

Self-esteem can change throughout life, but its main formation occurs at an early age, which can be quite problematic to change. This is where children's complexes, grievances, unfulfilled hopes and dreams are laid.

There are many options for determining a child’s self-esteem. After familiarizing yourself with them, you can simply observe your child from time to time, but you can draw specific conclusions after six years. Then the child can already perceive himself as a separate person, respond and be aware of his actions, and evaluate his strengths. Observe and listen to your child:

  1. When a child draws or makes a craft, where does he place it: at the top or bottom of the sheet. If at the top, self-esteem is overestimated, if at the bottom, it is underestimated. The same is evidenced by handwriting; when a child writes in a notebook above the cells or rulers, it is too high and vice versa.
  2. How he expresses his thoughts: I can’t do it, I can’t handle it, the teacher is picking on me, you don’t love me. If you hear these kinds of phrases most often, then here’s a signal for you.
  3. “Tree” assessment method. Invite the child to look at the picture, explain that there are many people on the tree and they are all different, each busy with their own business. Use a red felt-tip pen to color the little person who looks like you? Which one reminds you? Use a green felt-tip pen to color which person you would like to be in?

Let's see which person the child chose in red and which in green. what he wants to be and what he really is. To make it clear, the men are numbered.

The choice of people numbered 1, 3, 6, 7 characterizes the attitude towards overcoming obstacles.

No. 2, 11, 12, 18, 19 - good relationships with others, sociability.

No. 4 - stability of the situation (the desire to achieve success without overcoming difficulties).

No. 5 - fatigue, general weakness, low strength, shyness.

No. 9 - motivation to have fun.

No. 13, 21 - detachment, isolation, anxiety.

No. 8 - detachment, withdrawal into oneself.

No. 10, 15 - comfortable state, normal adaptation.

No. 14 - crisis state, depression.

No. 20 is often chosen by children with high self-esteem.

If the child chose person No. 16 or No. 17, be sure to clarify what exactly the child sees. The important thing here is that #16 is carrying #17, not that they are playing or hugging.

4. “Circles” assessment method. Circles are drawn in the picture below. Imagine that these circles are people. Which circle do you see yourself in?

If a child points to the third or fourth circle on the left, it means he adequately perceives the features of his “I-image”, realizes his integrity and accepts himself.

When pointing to the first circle, he has inflated self-esteem.

When pointing to circles beyond the fifth - underestimated.

How to increase a child's self-esteem?

How to increase a child's self-esteem? How to make sure that your child stops being shy about people, afraid of communication, and is able to express himself and show his abilities?

  • Praise the children. Children perceive themselves the way others perceive them. I was praised, which means I'm good. They reprimanded me, which means I'm bad.

Praise stimulates children, gives them confidence, and increases self-esteem. Criticism instantly reduces it and discourages the desire to strive for something.

  • If you need to criticize a child, try to do it delicately. It’s better to first praise, highlight positive qualities, and then advise what to improve to make it better. Don't call your children names, laugh at them, or humiliate them in public.
  • Don't say "But". The phrase “You, of course, are great, BUT...” immediately reduces the importance of praise. It aims to indicate a deficiency.

How to fix it? “You are certainly great. I really like your work. Let's think about how we can make it even better? Maybe add this and that?”

This phrase already aims the child to continue activities and improve what has been done.

  • Give children freedom of action. There is no need to specify exactly what needs to be done. Give room for imagination, ask to come up with a solution and implement it.

The child is not always helpless, he is simply prohibited from doing many things.

Typical mistakes parents make

The development of a child’s self-esteem occurs gradually and is formed by the superposition of several factors. First of all, if there is an imbalance, then close family members play a direct role in this: his parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents:

  • We give an assessment not of the child’s actions, but move on to characterizing the personality . How often can we talk to a child in a similar vein: “how stupid you are, you can’t do your homework yourself, you need help with everything”; “what a pig you are, you’ve been taken out all over, look (we confirm our words)”; “I’ve done some business here again, clean everything up immediately before I cheat you, bungler.”
  • Also, the opposite example is when a child, at the slightest success, is overly praised and extolled . You can read how, when and what to praise for here.

And there are billions of such examples, even sometimes we don’t attach much importance to them, they happen as if by themselves. But a child is still the same sponge that absorbs and absorbs everything.

Also, if a child tried hard, did a craft or drew, he joyfully and with inspiration shows his mother his creation, but the mother, busy with household chores, did not show enough interest. The child is disappointed, he thinks that mom didn’t like it, and the incentive for further creativity is lost if this happens regularly.

During the school years, the child begins to be evaluated not only by his immediate environment, but also by teachers, coaches and other people. There is a comparison of him with other guys, their attitude towards him. How many friends does he have and whether he has any at all, their relationships. All this leads to the formation of an opinion about oneself.

What to do with low self-esteem?

Children with low self-esteem need help. First of all, parental, and in case of persistent changes – also professional.

What to do to increase your child's self-esteem:

  • Find a “success zone” for him. This could be a hobby or another activity that he likes and is good at. To increase self-esteem, it is desirable that he can see the results of his work - receive diplomas, take prizes, etc.
  • If there are no preferences or talents, you can make a chest of achievements - the method is suitable for young children. During the day, you need to write down all the good deeds and successes (helped around the house, read a book, drew a picture, etc.) and put the notes in a box. Periodically, the chest is opened and together with the child they remember his achievements.
  • Allow them to make decisions and act independently more often, of course, in accordance with their age. Being able to choose your own clothes or prepare a simple meal (even sandwiches) will have a positive impact on your child's self-esteem, provided that you refrain from criticism and emphasize the positive aspects.
  • Remind him often that you love him. This is important for both children and teenagers.
  • Don't ignore your child's achievements. This does not mean that you need to praise literally everything (children immediately sense falsehood), but real, albeit small, victories should be encouraged.
  • Develop a positive attitude and self-confidence in your child. Say that you believe in his success, because he is smart and capable, like mom and dad. And whenever possible, back up your words with practical advice.

Development of student self-esteem

The development of schoolchildren's self-esteem takes on new contours. If a preschooler assessed himself from the point of view of physiology and appearance, then at school he begins to evaluate practical actions and moral qualities. Finding themselves in a new environment - school, children begin to divide their peers into good and bad. Grades for homework, comments or praise from the teacher, the opinions of peers - all this influences the development of self-esteem of a younger student. Constant comparisons of ourselves with classmates begin, and here our task, as parents, is to not allow the opinion to become stronger that comparison with others is good. We look at principle 1 and implement it with terrible force. Well, and, of course, dear moms and dads, let’s not get hung up on grades. Don't you and I know that they are not the main thing in life.

(Watch this video if you want to live your school years in peace)

Even more useful information about studying at school in my course for parents “School Without Loss”


The formation of this type of self-esteem occurs during the period of primary socialization: in the process of parental education or training in educational institutions. The reasons why people begin to put themselves above others can be different:

  1. Manifestation of parental narcissism. For parents, a child becomes a way of self-affirmation, which prevents them from being perceived as an individual.
  2. Spoiled. The child in the family is given increased attention, no restrictions are placed on him, and any whim is satisfied upon request. In childhood, no type of punishment was applied to a person for misdeeds.
  3. Appearance or any distinctive abilities. Spectacular external data or talent is often felt by a person as some kind of advantage, which allows him to feel chosen.
  4. Teacher evaluation. Teacher support, which may be based on personal sympathy or benefit, contributes to the formation of high self-esteem.
  5. Material security.

"King, just king"!

This is how five-year-old Vanya, our little guest, introduces himself as a joke. The child's narcissism makes people smile, but the boy himself is not joking at all. He demands the best, the most precious things from his parents, and strives to always be the first.

This is how he became after the birth of his younger brother and now he is forced to prove to his parents every day that he is the BEST! He eats better, already goes to kindergarten, dresses better than his little brother. Such rivalry cannot be called normal, because the parents only support Vanina’s “belief in herself.” This is how they try to compensate for his lack of attention.

And in vain, probably. The narcissistic boy constantly “gets” from the kids in kindergarten, he has no friends. What else does high self-esteem threaten a child with? And how can you understand how your child feels about himself?

Self-esteem levels:

Adequate – high self-esteem: I’m like everyone else!

It should not be confused with inflated, it is precisely high, optimal self-esteem. Such a child is moderately inquisitive, cheerful and sociable, open, and behaves at ease in society. He listens to adults and does not conflict with peers.

If you have never wondered what kind of self-esteem your baby has, then this is exactly what it is, normal. It allows the child to develop harmoniously, both emotionally and intellectually.

Inflated self-esteem: I am the best!

It is difficult not to notice such children on the playground or in the classroom; they are more physically developed, strive for maximum knowledge, always try to “be good,” and please adults. Such kids often take on new things, but their impulsiveness prevents them from finishing them.

If a child has high self-esteem, then he is very capricious, demanding, touchy and conflict-ridden. He tries to attract attention to himself by any means. He does not accept criticism and immediately takes the position of leader among children.

Low self-esteem: I'm the worst!

Such self-esteem is even more dangerous than inflated self-esteem; it interferes with the child’s development. The baby is inactive and very modest, vulnerable, indecisive. And if in childhood he risks drawing with chalk or building houses alone, then in adulthood such self-esteem will not allow him to be realized either in his career or in his family.

He will be an anxious teenager who does not believe in himself and is afraid of everything new. And if you don’t want to be considered a loser, an outcast and a crybaby in the team, then it’s time to take action!

Useful tips for parents

In order for a preschooler to adequately assess his own abilities, parents must adhere to the following rules:

  1. You can't make comparisons A common mistake families make is to draw analogies between children. “Look, Vasya is a great student,” “Katya cleans the house, you throw things around.” Such remarks develop a feeling of insecurity and inferiority. You need to notice the baby’s strengths and emphasize them. For example, “Vasya knows mathematics very well, you know Russian,” “Katya cleans, and you wash the dishes wonderfully.”
  2. We need to realistically evaluate achievements. Excessive praise can instill in children a dependence on evaluation. By criticizing, you can develop a personal inferiority complex. You can't underestimate your abilities, but you can't overestimate them either.
  3. Accepting your child's boundaries This definition covers a wide range of personality traits. Parents must respect the feelings and thoughts of their own child and take care of toys and other property. Accept friends, interests, hobbies. You should understand that the baby may be in a bad mood, angry, and upset. The respectful attitude of parents contributes to the formation of adequate self-esteem in preschoolers.
  4. Be an example Children of older preschool age choose an ideal - mom or dad. The guys note how their parents treat themselves. Does your mother consider herself beautiful? Does dad speak respectfully? Children immediately notice the internal problems of adults, borrow and repeat the behavior of relatives, considering them correct. Family members are encouraged to engage in self-analysis, keep promises, take care, and share achievements. Within the family, basic values ​​are formed that the child adopts. In addition to the preschooler’s own activities, self-esteem is formed by the actions, conversations, and actions of parents. These factors influence the successful development of personality, the effectiveness of building relationships, and imitation of positive examples.
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