Advice for building a child's self-esteem

Barbara Olinger, MSW Parenting Consultant, shares advice for parents on various ways that they can help to build their child's self-esteem
Parenting Tips | Advice For Building A Child's Self-Esteem
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Advice for building a child's self-esteem

One way that we can help our children build their self-esteem is through a non-judgmental approach. Some examples of this are if a child shows you their painting, instead of saying, "Beautiful job, that's a beautiful painting," we can say, "Wow I can see so many colors," or, "Tell me about your painting," or, "What do you like about your painting?" If it's activities, instead of saying, "Good job," we can say, "You climbed up and slid down all by yourself. It took a lot of work to build that tower," or, "You did it." By doing it this way we change it from the focus on the end product to we notice the process, we notice the motivation, and we describe what we see. And in this way, kids can own their own experiences. It takes a lot of practice to do this and you can say it with a lot of enthusiasm. And in doubt you can just say, "Wow!" because children don't want to be judged. They want to be noticed. They want to know that you have seen them for what they're doing and that you encourage them to own their own experiences. This leads to a sense of mastery, which is the cornerstone of self-esteem.

Barbara Olinger, MSW Parenting Consultant, shares advice for parents on various ways that they can help to build their child's self-esteem


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Barbara Olinger, MSW

Family Consultant

Barbara Olinger has her Masters in Social Work and has worked with children and families in both educational and therapeutic settings for over 35 years. This has included being a Child and Family Therapist, the Supervising Clinician in an outpatient mental health clinic, a co-founder of a co-operative preschool, and Director of Family Development at the YWCA Santa Monica / Westside. In her current private practice, Barbara focuses on parent education and support for parents of children ages 1-10 years old and preschool teacher training. She offers on-going groups, individual/couples sessions, a monthly Dads Group, workshops on a variety of parenting topics, and phone consultations. Barbara has two sons, 29 and 26 years old.

The roots of healthy development begins with having our needs met. This is a requirement for growth: to separate, to feel confident physically, emotionally and socially, to gain a healthy sense of self, to be able to become compassionate. When our needs are supported, we develop from a foundation of trust- in our relationships and in our exploration of the world.

Strong families are built on a foundation in which development is understood and celebrated, mistakes are allowed, feelings are validated and connecting with others is emphasized. Parents can set limits with behavior while supporting needs in a way which promotes learning and self-esteem.

During this whole parenting journey, it is crucial to be conscious of our own needs and to take care of ourselves. Sharing our fears and anxieties about parenting with others can help us realize we all feel vulnerable at times and this can provide a space for growth and connection. Every parent need support!

Barbara’s parenting book “Growing From the Roots” and two DVDs (“Growing From the Roots” and “Welcoming Your Second Child”) are available through

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