What self-esteem looks like in 3-5-year-olds

Does your kid have a 'can-do' attitude? Help develop their positive outlook

Beautiful toddler girl smiling and playing under colorful blanket on a sunny day.

Self-esteem is feeling good about yourself and valuing your worth. This is an important quality for your child to develop in the first 3-5 years of their life.

In contrast, self-confidence comes from your knowledge and experience. It is about trusting your ability to succeed in tasks and challenges.

Positive self-esteem characteristics

Some of the benefits of having positive self-esteem include:

  • Fewer behavior problems.
  • Better problem solvers.
  • “Try again” attitude.
  • Belief in themselves.
  • Self-motivation.
  • Feeling loved, safe and accepted.

Negative self-esteem characteristics

Lower self-esteem can develop some of the following negative characteristics:

  • Blaming others.
  • Being self-critical.
  • Avoiding new people and experiences.
  • Lacking confidence and motivation.
  • Having an “I can’t” attitude.
  • Feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

Ways to boost your child’s self-esteem

Self-esteem requires time, attention and consistency. It can be developed as early as infanthood and slowly grows over time. By the time your child reaches 5 years of age, their self-esteem can be fully established and strong.

Practice at least one of these strategies daily with your child:

  • Provide limits: Establish reasonable and age-appropriate rules. Follow through on the rules you make together. Family rules help children to feel secure.
  • Focused attention: When your child wants your focus or help, pay close attention and listen attentively. Doing the dishes or folding laundry can wait. Pause and listen.
  • Let your child lead: Allow opportunities for your child to take on new responsibilities. Praise their effort and hard work. Follow your child’s lead in play and daily interactions.
  • Mistakes happen: Let your child feel successful when completing tasks such as brushing teeth or setting the table. Allow for mistakes to be a learning opportunity.
  • Focus on positives: Try not to focus on all of the challenging and frustrating aspects of being a parent. Focus more on what your child is doing right. Let them know you noticed and are proud.
  • Validate feelings: Allow feelings to be felt, both positive and negative. Let your child know you hear and understand their frustrations.
  • Give control: When your child has some sense of power and control, they will feel heard and understood. Try to give your child two choices throughout the day and allow them to choose.

When your child has positive self-esteem, they feel confident and accepted for who they are. It is a quality that remains strong and stable over the course of a lifetime. Boosting self-esteem at a young age will provide the best outcome for their future.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting

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