Content Map Terms

Connecting with Your Preschooler: Building Self-Esteem


mom and preschooler daughter outdoors



Between the ages of three and five is an important time in your child’s emotional development. Here are some suggestions for nurturing your child’s self-esteem.

Understanding preschoolers

The foundations for confidence and self-esteem are established during this time. The way children feel about their rapidly growing abilities and the way they deal with more complex emotions have a big influence on their ability to cope with life’s stresses.

Most of your preschooler’s learning occurs through play. This will happen at home, and with other children at preschool and daycare, where children are encouraged to learn through play, art and storytelling.

Your role changes during the preschooler years. Your baby is now a little person ready to take on the world and your job is to show them how. One of your most important jobs is to help your child handle emotions and develop social skills. These skills help your child to cope with emotional changes, keep going in the face of frustration, have hope, control extreme emotional impulses, and feel compassion and empathy. These are very important ingredients for success in life.

Nurturing your child’s self-esteem

Good self-esteem means that you have a positive view of yourself and your abilities. Children who have good self-esteem feel that they are loved and they can manage the world to some degree.

If you have positive self-esteem, it affects the way you approach tasks and learning and the way you deal with life’s disappointments and problems. Positive self-esteem helps us to understand and accept failure without lasting emotional damage.

Tips to help your child develop self-esteem

  • Teach children about who they are by explaining who’s who in the family and how they’re related.
  • Make photo albums and provide family treasures (past and present). This helps children have a mental picture of who they are and where they come from.
  • Keep your child’s drawings, letters and photos to help her build a sense of self.
  • Encourage your child to play with children of a similar age, so he isn’t overwhelmed by the abilities of older children.
  • Encourage your child to work out problems and make decisions independently, but make sure she knows you’re there to help.
  • When your child masters a new skill, praise him and encourage him to practise it before starting something harder. Repetition will help him build confidence and understand that things that were once hard become easy.
  • Be generous with praise. Say things like "Thank you", "That was helpful" and "You do that really well".
  • Actions can speak louder than words. Hug your child, listen, make time even when you’re busy, let your child help you, put your child’s drawings on display, and participate in preschool events.
  • A child’s self-esteem can be easily damaged by put-downs. Avoid at all costs saying things that put down your child. For example, "You make me tired", "You are silly/a nuisance/lazy/stupid" or "If we didn’t have you, we’d be able to take a holiday/work less".
  • Help your child to understand that everyone makes mistakes and that mistakes can help us to learn. It’s important that children understand that if they make a mistake in one area, they are not bad at everything.
  • Encourage children to be positive about themselves and their future. Negative self-talk can be associated with problems such as depression and anxiety. Encourage statements like, "It’s OK that my team didn’t win today", "I can work out this problem if I just keep trying", and "It makes me feel good to help someone, even if they don’t thank me".

More information on connecting with your preschooler:

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Preschoolers – Building Social Skills  
HealthLink BC: Helping Your Child Build Inner Strength 


Last Updated: November 30, 2014