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How to build self-esteem in your child

While many of us are juggling home-schooling and work, we thought we would ask our Head of Curriculum here at Maggie & Rose, Lucy Prew, for some guidance around building our children's self-esteem. Because however clever we get at managing their google classroom lessons, assemblies and assignments, we're about as far from being teachers, as we are from piloting a Space Shuttle!

Lucy explains that what, and how, our child will learn is entwined in how we teach them to manage failure, mistakes and the notion of being perfect.

"The phrase 'self-esteem' is often used when describing another human being’s level of confidence and general understanding of their own emotional state of mind and wellbeing. As parents you will have seen that teachers often describe a child’s level of self-esteem in school reports, or for children in the early years you will note that it's an area that is observed and commented on. You might wonder what it really means and how can you support your child’s level of self-esteem no matter how big or small they are. Everyday there are simple and easy ways in which we can all contribute to building emotionally healthy children and young people, by helping them become resilient and confident learners.

Here at Maggie & Rose, our ultimate goals are to help children concrete their understanding of the subject at hand which we do in the following ways:

1 Help children enjoy learning

2 Ensure children feel secure to explore how they are learning

3 Encourage them to ask the question '`why am I learning this?'

Avoiding the 'perfect'

When, as educators or parents, we think about our expectations of children, do we ever really expect to use the phrases perfect or perfection? The answer is no we do not. Should we emphasise the importance of coming first in the race or do we emphasise that being part of a team and taking part is a more fulfilling experience? We encourage the message that we are all winners and the positivity of the experience.

Failure, and shame

Succumbing to what we as individuals believe is failure is very difficult, and affects the way we feel. As educators and parents it is important to remember that children feel those feelings also. Children as young as 14 months can feel ashamed, children as young as two years old can feel shy and embarrassed. So as adults, it's very important for us to convey to children that we need to accept that we will inevitably make mistakes sometimes.

Accepting mistakes

The following maybe described as mistakes that little ones make as they are developing their understanding of actions, concepts and behaviour.

  1. Asking a child to colour in the circle in yellow and they colour in green

  2. Using the sorting shape box and fitting the right shape to the right hole or not

  3. Learning to write shaped letters but they are often back to front

  4. Counting to 10 and missing number seven

  5. Being given cutlery and picking up food with our fingers

These are all mistakes, but they also replicate a pattern of learning. By allowing your child to gently make such mistakes you also give them the ability to learn. Ultimately, making mistakes teaches children the resilience to keep trying. Should you gently allow the child to know it is okay, by not emphasising too much praise or too much persuasion to redo the exercise, they will naturally build a resilience to keep on trying and recognise in themselves their ability and achievement, whilst enjoying their learning journey.


Resilience in children is incredibly important, education is enjoyable but can also feel overwhelming because consistently learning new information is hard. Learning about people and relationships, maturing, and developing a multitude of new feelings is frustrating and difficult for children. Healthy competition with other children builds resilience, physical games and play activities are of course tiring, but build resilience. Allowing your child the opportunity to learn an instrument or begin a martial arts class develops skills and interests but also helps them to build a natural emotional resilience.

The moral of learning is to learn the correct method - we will often practice and practice and eventually we will get there, we will be happy and still enjoy learning. The challenge for children is when we don't accept the fact that there will be mistakes along the way, because if we do not accept the mistake then the child won’t accept the mistake. If we can accept that it's okay to make mistakes, we will become human beings without the fear of failure, and we will likely remain lifelong learners."

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