How do I know if my child has low Self-Esteem?

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is essentially, how worthy you believe you are. How you feel about who you are, the way you act, how you look, etc.

A low self-esteem can and does impact a child in many different ways. But, it’s often easier to spot in kids, than in an adult.


How do I tell if my child has low Self-Esteem?

Some of the tell-tale signs to watch for include….

  • They can often show a fear of failure, or even a sense of helplessness by avoiding challenges.
  • They may give up soon after beginning a game or a task, as soon as they begin to feel frustration.
  • They can sometimes cheat if they believe they may lose a game, or do poorly.
  • They may start to act babylike, or very silly.
  • They can become controlling, or bossy, to hide feelings of inadequacy, frustration, or powerlessness.
  • They may make excuses to put the blame on someone else, when they lose at something.
  • Their grades in school may have declined, or they may lose interest in usually enjoyable activities.
  • They may withdraw socially, not wanting to spend time with friends, etc.
  • They may experiences changing moods, anything from sadness and crying, to angry outbursts and frustration.
  • They may make regular self-critical comments, such as “I never do anything right”, “Nobody likes me”, “I’m ugly”, etc.
  • They may find it hard to accept either praise, or criticism.
  • They become overly sensitive to what other people think if them.
  • They can sometimes¬† become strongly affected by negative peer influence. Doing things like, cutting classes, acting disrespectfully, shoplifting, or experimenting with tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.


Unfortunately, many of these traits are seen as normal ‘teenager issues’. And, in many cases they are, but it’s wise to be cautious, because self-esteem issues are generally devastating in the kids mind.


What can I do to help?

Here’s a few simple things you can do to help, even if you’re not sure your child has low self-esteem….

  • Always try to be a good role model.
  • The happier and more positive you are, the more positie your child will be.
  • Don’t ever compare your child to someone else, even if that someone is a sibling.
  • Praise them whenever they do something good, even if they did it because earlier they were bad.
  • Try not to critisise. Whenever possible, find something good to say.
  • Remeber that even though your child’s fears may seem tiny to you, they’re huge to them. Try to empathise, rather than judge.
  • Try to learn what they’re good at, then encourage them to do more of it.
  • Be a friend. Let them know they can come to you if they’re struggling. Let them know you won’t judge, you just want to help.
  • Try to involve them in decision making around the home. If you’re looking to buy new furniture, or a TV, ask them which one they’d buy and why, for example.
  • Try to get them to understand that failure isn’t a bad thing. It just gives them the chance to learn something, so they can do better next time.
  • Try not to speak negatively about anyone, including yourself when the child is around. Even if you’re not speaking to them, they pick up on the negativity.
  • Try not to be overprotective. Discuss any pros and cons, then let them make mistakes.
  • Don’t over-punish. Of course, they have to know and abide by the house rules, so punishment is sometime necessary. But if they’re being admonished every day, even for the smallest of things, they’ll begin to feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.
  • Counter to that, is don’t over praise. Kids know which things they’re quite good at. If you suddenly start praising everything they do, they’ll soon realise you’re not being sincere.


Usually, problems with self-esteem aren’t life threatening in any way. It’s possible though, in extreme cases, for them to feel so low, they start to wonder if their life’s worth living.

If you ever become concerned that your child’s having thoughts like this, immediately seek professional help for them. Initially, you should speak to your GP. They’ll be able to refer you to a therapist, or counsellor if necessary.

I hope this helps, but you can always contact us directly if you need further guidance.

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Steve, the Founder of Teen Anxiety UK, has been writing books and articles about various aspects of Psychology since 2006.

His formal qualifications include Clinical Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Child Psychology.

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