Helping Kids Develop Positive Self-Worth


Published:

First introduced by psychologist William James over a century ago, the term self-esteem has become synonymous with participation ribbons, unwarranted praise and unneeded ego-stroking on the part of parents, coaches and teachers. Self-esteem, however, or a person’s concept of personal self-worth, is far from pop psychology fluff. Per today’s top researchers in the field of neurology and child development, self-esteem is foundational to healthy childhood development. Research published by the US Department of Health and Human Services links healthy self-esteem to better overall physical and emotional health, improved problem-solving, better relationships and lower levels of stress. Building healthy self-esteem begins early, but caregivers can help self-worth flourish at any age. Here’s how.

 

EARLY YEARS

Multiple Choice

Long before children begin school, they develop concepts about their self-worth that may influence academic performance later on. A child’s self-esteem is highly developed by age 5, say researchers at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. Children with higher self-esteem are more willing to persist and are more motivated to complete tasks than those with lower self-worth. 

Allowing young children to make choices as soon as they’re able, usually once they become verbal around age 2, can help develop their budding sense of self and foster positive self-esteem, says licensed professional counselor Caroline Racher Turak, play therapist at The Stone Center for Counseling in Charlotte.

“I use choice giving with children as young as 2-1/2, as long as they are verbal.” Allowing a child to choose, say, whether he’ll wear shoes or boots to the playground, allows him to view himself as an individual capable of making good choices and learning from those decisions, both today and years down the road.

 

ELEMENTARY YEARS

Encouragement Effect

In years past, well-intentioned parents heaped praise on kids in an attempt to build self-esteem. But this approach can backfire, causing children to fixate on external validation and measures of success outside of their own control. Far from a fountain of positive self-worth, excessive praise may result in anxious, unmotivated kids with lower self-esteem, according to research reported by the American Psychological Association. The praise habit is so ingrained in modern parenting that it can be hard to kick, says child psychiatrist Vinay Saranga, medical doctor and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry in Apex.

“Parents can and should express admiration and pride in their child’s achievements,” he says. But it’s best to be specific, as in, ‘I love the colors you picked for your painting,’ instead of a vague ‘Great job!’”

“Focus on encouragement rather than praise,” Turak says. “Encouragement recognizes the work a child did to earn the accomplishment, as in, ‘you really worked hard to earn that A’ and focuses on building internal validation, while praise emphasizes external validation.”

 

TEEN YEARS 

Body Image Blues

As exposure to negative media messaging and pressure from peers piles on, teens’ view of their bodies can become distorted. With older children and teens, parents should model behaviors that show a strong sense of self-worth and a positive body image, says Turak. 

“Parents of teens should be mindful about how they talk about their own bodies in front of their teen. If a parent is looking in the mirror and talking about how they need to lose 10 pounds, it can be detrimental to how the teen views themselves,” Turak says. “But I like to remind parents that it is not what you have done that matters most, but what you do after what you have done. Basically, how you repair.”

If you catch yourself bashing your body in front of your teen, find a moment later to say “I realize I haven’t been talking nicely about myself and others, and I’m going to do better.” 

 

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published health and parenting journalist and mom.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

March 25-28: Crafty Kids, Muddy Boots, Lemony Snicket Party and NerdCon

Here are some fun things to do this week with the kids.

Triangle Towns Host Easter Egg Hunts

Everyone loves the thrill of an Easter egg hunt, and Triangle towns from Apex to Zebulon are hosting lots of them!

Carowinds Launches Copperhead Strike

Hands in the air for this double-launch coaster that anchors the new themed area at Carowinds.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

March 2019

The Cary Kennel Club, Alamance Kennel Club, Durham Kennel Club, Raleigh Kennel Club and Fayetteville Kennel Club join forces to bring dog lovers a variety of dog competitions, obedience and rally...

Cost: $5/person

Where:
North Carolina Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

The Vernal Equinox signals the beginning of Spring. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Enjoy the museum's annual celebration of flowers. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $13/members and $18/nonmembers. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Telephone: 919-839-6262
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir will reach new heights as our choristers and community present Dr. Tim Sharp’s “High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass.” Welcoming area boys to perform in...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Baptist Church
99 N Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Boychoir
Telephone: 919-881-9259
Contact Name: Erin O'Hara
Website »

More information

Join park staff on an easy hike to look for early wildflowers, blooming trees and singing birds. Learn how to identify some common spring species and enjoy the park as it comes to life!​...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Excite your neurons and discover brain science. Enjoy lab tours, a kids' corner, games and much more. Free and open to the public. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Duke University
308 Research Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
View map »


Website »

More information

Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 6-9 years create a fairy house in the woods for a mouse, bug, toad or other woodland fairy. Natural materials provided, which participants can use to build the fairy house of their dreams...

Cost: $4

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a fun-filled family- and dog-friendly event that starts at Carrboro Town Commons and winds through diverse neighborhoods and the UNC campus. The route measures about 4 miles but can be...

Cost: Free; optional t-shirt purchase/donation

Where:
Carrboro Town Commons
301 W. Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: Interfaith Council for Social Services/Church World Service
Telephone: 919-942-6571
Contact Name: Mae McClendon
Website »

More information

Dan Breeding brings his beloved animals to Carrboro. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Green St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy two Grimm's fairytales as told by youth musicians, actors, and artists with original music by R. Michael Daugherty. Presented by Philharmonic Assoc. Chamber Ensembles. Purchase...

Cost: $8/person

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Using cutting edge lighting technology, Lightwire Theater brings the beloved story to life in a blaze of color. The result is an unforgettable theatrical experience blending electroluminescent...

Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 3 and younger.

Where:
Stewart Theatre, Talley Student Union
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Parent and child experience a music and movement class. Enjoy Orff and percussion instruments and do a little jumping and jamming.  Please call ahead to hold your space for the class.

Cost: Free

Where:
Millbrook Baptist Preschool
1519 East Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Sponsor: Millbrook Baptist Preschool
Telephone: 919-876-4030
Contact Name: Suzanne Holleman
Website »

More information

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization.

Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Spring is here and the winter snow is melting away. Create a weather craft to celebrate the new season. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult accompaniment...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »

More information

Ages 5-13. Homeschool Yoga is a one-hour class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness. Weave in art and journaling before or after...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »

More information

Ages 5-13 enjoy a one-hour yoga class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness, encourage the development of communication and social...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization and more.

Cost: $15/child, use your package/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt Carmel Church Rd
chapel hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Kids 6 & under are free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Dance 2 Get Fit is a high energy, calorie blasting dance fitness workout. Each dance routine is fun and exciting, yet easy to follow. The dance moves will target your hips, thighs and strengthen...

Cost: $5 per class

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Road
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

See Captain Jim perform magic and deliver a few words of wisdom. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Green St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Connect with your baby, other parents and yourself during this adult-focused postpartum yoga class. Recommended for babies newborn to walking. Take a mat, a blanket for your little one, and...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Meet other families in your community in a recreation setting. The play room will be reserved for parents and their young children. Sports and recreation equipment will be available...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120082.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This after-school class for kids in grades 3-5 offers fun learning yoga poses and mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
View map »


Website »

More information

Parents learn help children with special needs build skills to encourage independence and confidence. Register online. Choose course #121426.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs enjoy a night of bingo, food and fun. Wear green clothing. Drinks and light snacks provided. Register online. Choose course #121060.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Dance 2 Get Fit is a high energy, calorie blasting dance fitness workout. Each dance routine is fun and exciting, yet easy to follow. The dance moves will target your hips, thighs and strengthen...

Cost: $5 per class

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Road
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Families with rising kindergartners or little ones hoping to get into early entry to stop by our informational fair for free kindergarten screenings and fun educational activities for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wynns Family Psychology
130 Preston Executive Dr
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Sponsor: Wynns Family Psychology
Telephone: 919-467-7777
Contact Name: Kristen Wynns
Website »

More information

Read and Feed is an after-school literacy program that provides meals, tutoring and books to children from low-income families in Wake County. The Feed the Reader Breakfast is the...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Umstead Hotel
100 Woodland Pond Dr.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 15 and older with disabilities enjoy dancing, music, games and refreshments. Wear spring attire. Register online. 

Cost: $3

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy popcorn with a family-friendly movie while being comfy in your pajamas. Refreshments provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

This class is a chance for adventurous women to get together for a fun-filled workshop where we explore the basics of aerial silks. No need for a background in aerial yoga, this is a workshop...

Cost: $25

Where:
Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Hot Yoga
Telephone: 188-858-79530
Contact Name: hoa bui
Website »

More information

Go on a night hike with a park naturalist to test your sensory skills after dark. We’ll hike past the pond's edge and through forests, wetlands, and fields to discover what happens in these...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Go behind the scenes at the veterinary school, get up close and personal with animals, and meet the faculty, staff and students who make our institution one of a kind. Animal lovers of all sizes...

Cost: Free; no registration required

Where:
NC State College of Veterinary Medicine
1060 William Moore Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: NC Stqte College of Veterinary Medicine
Website »

More information

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px 'Times New Roman'; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Why do neighborhoods change so quickly in Durham? Was...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ninth Street
Durham, NC  27705

More information

Widow's Son Lodge #4, is hosting an annual free community health fair. Area health care provider and services are organized in one larger location to offer free screenings, information, one on...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Cosmopolitan Baptist Church
1515 Cross Link Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Widow's Son Lodge #4
Telephone: 252-367-7111
Contact Name: James Purington
Website »

More information

Discover the fascinating world of pond critters by scooping in the pond to observe who lives there up close. View some of the tiniest critters under a microscope. All ages with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), kids ages 6 & under: free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

More information

Larger-than-life puppets and the North Carolina Symphony bring the animal kingdom to life for a performance of Saint-Saëns’ magnificent music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

*This sensory-friendly performance is designed especially for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities or other disabilities. Ziggy is a shy boy who...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Talented dance students present "Swan Lake Act II". Purchase tickets online for either the 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. show.

Cost: $15 in advance, $18 at the door

Where:
Fletcher Opera Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See talented dance students perform their spring repertoire in "Swan Lake Act II". Purchase tickets online for either the 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. performance.

Cost: $15 advance tickets, $18 at the door

Where:
Fletcher Opera Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Larger-than-life puppets and the North Carolina Symphony bring the animal kingdom to life for a performance of Saint-Saëns’ magnificent music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

The Triangle Rock Paper Scissors Showdown is a bracket-style competition of the age-old game we all know and love. Teams of 4 will compete head-to-head to decide whether throwing a risky rock,...

Cost: $100/team of 4 ($25 per person), VIP: $400/team of 4 ($100 per person)

Where:
Big Boss Brewing Company
1249 Wicker Dr., Ste. A
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Together
Telephone: 919-856-7453
Contact Name: Colleen McDevitt
Website »

More information

Talented dance students present "Swan Lake Act II". Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $15 in advance, $18 at the door

Where:
Fletcher Opera Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.