Choo Choo Train

One Easy Way to Build Self-esteem in Children

At Choo Choo Train, we want the children in our care to feel seen, heard, and acknowledged. We want our connections with them to grow deeper each day. We want the children’s self-esteem to be nourished with every interaction we have. Do you want the same for your child? It can be achieved by showing them how to recognize the good feelings that come from within when they accomplish something. It takes a lot of practice to teach children how to rely on their internal motivation but there is nothing you cannot do with love and passion. It is all through giving meaningful positive affirmations as you respond.

Adults tend to say “Good job!” when we see children do something new or do something desired like offering a toy to a friend. We also tend to give tangible reinforcements like stickers, candy, and toys. While “Good job!” is super easy to say and tangible reinforcement is desired by children, these two responses make children rely upon external motivation. We can change this by responding with words that are more meaningful. Words that are more meaningful are those that show children we see and hear them, words that show children we are interested, and words that teach them how they feel when they achieve something.

Usually, what your child needs is an acknowledgment and not necessarily praise. When they show you what they built with their blocks, or specifically tell you what they built, you can simply mirror what they showed or said: “You built a castle.” If you want to praise the accomplishment, you can say “You built a castle on your own. You are a builder.” You can show them that you are genuinely interested in their work by inviting them to share more about what they’ve done. Ask questions like “Is this the door that you built?”

When you notice your child complete a task that you know was difficult, comment on their effort. “You put the puzzle pieces together!” When you notice your child being kind, or brave, or almost give up on something, give support. “You are working really hard; you should feel proud.” Anytime you can encourage a child to keep going, do it because it will deepen their interest and extend their learning.

Here are some phrases we use around in our classrooms. Depending on the activity, we will mention specifically what is going on to tailor our response to the situation:

  1. You did it!
  2. How did that make you feel?
  3. You took a risk!
  4. You should feel proud of yourself; I do.
  5. I love that idea!
  6. You made a plan.
  7. That is interesting, tell me more.
  8. I love your creativity!
  9. You are learning to do it on your own.
  10. You used so much pink in your picture.
  11. I like the way you are thinking.
  12. You showed kindness.
  13. That was brave.
  14. You are an…. artist, painter, builder, climber, etc.
  15. You worked really hard on that.
  16. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
  17. You made a good choice.
  18. You can do hard things.
  19. Show me what you learned (or what you did).
  20. You solved your problem.

Let’s foster positive self-esteem in our children with positive affirmations!