Helping your child feel good: building self-esteem not just confidence

The other night I was watching Grown Ups 2 and while laughing at the parenting scene in the video below, I also started thinking about self-confidence and how I have been building this character strength in my children.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say I am probably not the only parent out there who gets super-excited when my child answers a question correctly or presents an excellent report card.  If my child is happy, I am happy – if they feel good, I feel good – it’s win-win, right?!  Well, not exactly, because self-confidence and self-esteem are not the same thing.

The difference between the two is this:

Self-confidence is our view of our abilities. It’s built through achievement and external recognition when we overcome obstacles.

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves and our comfort level being exactly who we are. It’s what we believe ourselves to be internally, regardless of social norms.

#Mommyfail here: I have been treating self-confidence (external experience) and self-esteem (internal experience) like they are one and the same, when in reality they are unique traits that both need to be nurtured in children.  In knowing this I move onto the next logical question: is one more important than the other?  The truth is that we don’t need to be confident about everything and in every situation…but we do need to love who we are every minute, all the time.  And studies say high-levels of self-esteem can often act as a buffer when we are, dare I say it…not so confident.

So in an attempt to right my “mommyfail” assumption that high confidence means a high level of self-esteem, I have made a conscious effort to focus on building up my children’s self-esteem, in addition to recognizing the accomplishments which contribute to building up their confidence.

Here are a few tips to help frame you approach to building self-esteem:

  1. Stay connected to your children. Love for oneself grows from feeling love and security. Be the safe place when life gets crazy.
  2. Be a positive role-model when goal setting and when talking about your abilities.
  3. Let your child take healthy risks – allow them to take chances and figure things out as they go. Be there for support but not to rescue them from the learning that comes when things don’t go just right.
  4. Encourage your children to pursue their unique interests and enjoy the journey of discovery.
  5. Make your child feel special by helping them to understand their unique strengths. Redirect the inaccurate messages about perfection all too often seen in the media.

How do you help your child feel good about themselves? Share your words of wisdom with us here:

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Sarah Flynn RN

About Sarah Flynn RN, MScN. I am a wife, mother of 3 and a registered public health nurse with the school years health team. I have been nursing for 10 years and have dedicated my career to supporting children and families thrive while in the hospital and out in the community. I am passionate about positive parenting and creating healthy school communities for our youth. You can find me in schools and online. Family life and work keeps me busy and on my toes – and I love to chat about it all in my HaltonParents blogs and on Facebook!
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4 Responses to Helping your child feel good: building self-esteem not just confidence

  1. Karyn says:

    Thanks for posting this, Sarah! I think the distinction between self-esteem and self-confidence is an important distinction that many people miss.
    May I suggest that instead of using the term “Mommyfail”, which perpetuates the current trend of parent-shaming for every small imperfection, you might offer yourself the kindness of calling it a learning experience,

  2. I am glad that you enjoyed the blog Karyn – self-confidence and self-esteem are often used interchangeably (hence my own confusion!) so I wanted to highlight the difference. Also thank you for reminding me that there really are no ‘mommyfails” and that parenting is about learning from every experience…you boosted my self-esteem today! ~ Sarah

  3. Pingback: Importance of Play | HaltonParents

  4. Lina says:

    hello! thanks for sharing this, what a great topic. I am working on that not only with my children, but with myself. I am learning to appreciate myself a little bit more , in order to be a healthy role model to my daughters.

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