39 answers

Building Self-esteem for My 11 Year Old Daughter

My 11 yr old daughter has always had low self-esteem. Even when she was a toddler - she would say I can't do it. She would wait for her younger sister (1 yr younger) to do it first - then she would try. She is also very hard on herself about school and her looks.
She is normal size, she does struggle w/school. Does anyone have advise or resources to help. I don't want my daughter to fo through life feeling bad about herself.

8 moms found this helpful

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I want to thank everyone very much for your thoughts and experiences that you have shared with me. I received several awesome ideas - I have been thinking about how to start incorporating these ideas into our lives. I hope to return this act of kindness someday to other families. God Bless You and thank you again...

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Self esteem comes from within, from accomplishing things and being impressed with ones self (not from being told how wonderful one is). I really recommend the book by John Rosemond (a child psychologist and parenting expert) called John Rosemond's Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful

I just found out that there is a "5 love languages" book about kids!! That might really help too! I wish you the best of luck.

4 moms found this helpful

B., I will make this breaf since you have so many responses. I believe self-esteem issues when (raised in a healthy environment) are best filled when you can show a child how to serve others. Set her up to volunteer. Look at childrens hospitals (to read to them) etc. Maybe as she gets older soup kitchens etc. What this does is help the child feel greatful for their own gifts and talents and raises there self worth in where they can fit "in" over time in this great big world. She sounds like a sweet spirited little girl and believe you will see her start to blossom at the chance of helping someone else. ( i wouldnt ask her if she wants to, most kids would say no. Just set it up and do it with her) sometimes a little nudge is good. Good luck!!

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You've gotten a lot of responses, but here's my persepctive, hopefully it helps. First, the latest research in psychology says that self-esteem is over-rated. I know it's surprising, because so much emphasis is put on it in popular culture, but research shows that kids who get praised for everything (even when it's not totally earned) become praise junkies and more focused on getting the praise than trying hard. The truth is that many things in life are hard, and kids need to learn that it's ok to fail, that the important thing is to try. So now the recommendation is not to focus on "good job" all the time because it just sends kids the message that they are constantly being evaluated. Rather, praise her for trying even if she does not succeed. She is probably not trying because she's afraid to fail. In your desire to increase her self-esteem, you may be praising her so much that it may freeze her from trying things she fears she may fail at.

So try to praise her for trying. Focus on what she is doing, not the quality of the outcome (eg, "Wow, you drew a face", not "That's a beautiful picture").

Second, research in psychology seems to suggest that the more people's self-worth is based on inner attributes (eg inner character, even being loved by God, if you're religious), the better. So better not focus too much on external beauty but inner beauty. I always tell my daughter I love her even when she's looking a mess. And I tell her about how her inner beauty makes her shine.

Finally, some research suggests that the amount of confidence a person exhibits is a trait they are born with. I was actually a very shy and insecure child. That would surprise anyone who met me now because I've come a long way, but a lot of it had to do with learning social skills and a track record of true accomplishments, achieved by trying hard... So I guess my point is that she may just be a hesitent child and that's ok too. We can't all have super-confident children. Diffidence is unde-rated!

I hope this helps, and good luck!

8 moms found this helpful

I so empathize with your situation. I have three comments for your consideration, one more practical, the other two unconventional:
1) Does she have chores/responsibilities in the household? I have always heard/read that if children have responsibilities in the household and feel like they are contributing, that it helps their self-esteem. You can make her tasks something different from her sister but something that benefits everyone in the family, like setting the table each night, etc. Just something where she feels she is making a valuable contribution and that she is responsible for.
2) This one is going to sound crazy and very unconventional, but I have to tell you because it transformed me when I was 13. I felt really ugly, very down on myself, no self-confidence, etc. Now I don't believe we should hold our value in how we look on the outside, but because that was my biggest concern at the time, this is what my Mom told me to do and it worked like a charm. When she told me to do this, I thought she was crazy, but I had nothing to lose so I did it and it worked miraculously. She told me that every night, I should go to the mirror, look at myself, and say to myself "I am beautiful". It's very important to look at yourself while stating the words, and the words need to be said out loud. I know this sounds crazy, but I cannot emphasize how much I was transformed over one summer by doing this. It was so hard to do this at first, and initially it made me feel ridiculous, because I really didn't believe in what I was saying. But I have to tell you that this one simple thing gave me so much self-esteem, and it wasn't long before I felt normal and natural looking at myself and hearing myself say these words! I imagine this would work no matter what the issue was related to self-esteem. Could be looks, could be personality, whatever trait is desired, I believe this technique works. If you decide to try it, I would be curious to know your findings.
3) We have such a strong effect on the people around us but when our children have an issue, it can be hard for us as parents to feel good. One way you can really help your daughter is to only focus on her positive attributes. I don't mean you should be telling her what they are, I mean in quiet contemplation on your own, think about all of the wonderful traits she has. Focus on them, feel them, see her when she is at her best in your mind's eye. Never think about the negative stuff (easier said than done, I know. You may need to use your will to do this). If you do this on a regular basis, you will start to notice that her positive attributes become more pronounced and she will most likely start seeing this too, which will enhance her self-esteem. It's hard to imagine that we can have this effect on others but we do.

I hope you didn't find this advice to "out there", but I have seen great effects using these techniques on myself and my children. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I truly hope you find something that will work for your daughter.

7 moms found this helpful

you've gotten alot of great responses here...but I wanted to expand on what Jill H wrote. I had terrible esteem in middle school and was horribly teased. My mother tried so hard to tell me "you're smart and pretty"...it didn't mean a thing to me when the others were telling me just the opposite. What I really needed to hear instead was " if you get your confidence from what others think of you..you will never be happy or confident; it doens't matter what others think, it matters that you LIKE YOURSELF for who you are." If others don't agree....doesn't matter, you'll find someone else who does. I tell my children, be yourself, you'll attract the friends who appreciate the real you...you don't need to be popular..it's overated and shallow.
Not to get off track...your daughter needs to learn that trying and doing her best is all you expect...not #1 in everything...just her #1 efforts!
And...like Jill H was saying about practicing in the mirror...my quote on that thought is " What we think about, we bring about". If your daughter constanly tells herself "I can't", I'm fat, I'm ugly" she starts believing her own inner voice. If she will replace those thoughts with " I can do it" or at least " I will TRY it".. and "I like the way I look" " I feel good about who I am" "Being myself is the most important thing"...eventually she will start to believe those words and act on them! The power of the words and the mind are incredible(just look at how they work negatively....change that to work positively!)
Kids are so into being accepted...we need to teach them to just be themselves and wait for real friends who like them for who they already are. I tell my kids if they have one good friend who is real and trustworthy, then they are blessed. By the same token, if your daughter finds one talent that she is good at and focuses on that, maybe that will fulfill her...and if you are family of faith..definitely focus in on that.
Ruth's remarks about focusing on inner beauty was great! And so true! The most important thing you can teach your daughter is to LOVE herself..because if you don't love or believe in you..it's hard to believe that others do!
Liking yourself brings true esteem and confidence. It took me years to figure that out...once I did, my whole world changed.

5 moms found this helpful

Self esteem comes from within, from accomplishing things and being impressed with ones self (not from being told how wonderful one is). I really recommend the book by John Rosemond (a child psychologist and parenting expert) called John Rosemond's Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful

Your daughter's self esteem is something that comes from how she views herself, rather than how we view her. Heaping amounts of praise are often tuned out. You have to be able to reach her inner dialog. There is a good book I've been reading that can help you to do that. Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family by Adele Faber. Take some time to read it, I think it can help.

4 moms found this helpful

Low self-esteem is a very hard thing to battle. My parents tried and tried to help me as a kid to battle it, but I don't think it ever really worked because I knew they both had low self-esteem. Children are slightly influenced in that area by the examples they see. In my case, both my parents had low self-esteem and thus their efforts to help me went in one ear and out the other. I didn't take their comments that I was pretty or smart seriously because I knew they were smart and didn't believe it.

At any rate, look at the example you set first. If you believe you might have a problem, then do something that both of you can benefit from. Sign up for karate to take together. Go to the salon together. Go buy some new clothes together. Make up a workout program that you both can work on. Make a point of pointing out positive aspects of eachother every morning. Maybe sit down and write out some things you are both thankful for in a journal. Sign up for a class together.

Even if you don't think you have a problem with self-esteem...maybe do these things with her anyway. Get closer to her to really show her how to look at life differently.

It is a tough battle. I'm 40 now and still have problems with it from time to time. My husband is exactly the opposite so I"m hoping he will cancel me out when it comes to our children.

I was a smart kid and did well in school, but I thought I was dumb. I always thought the teachers gave me more credit than I deserved. I was fairly artistic, but I didn't see it that way. I was a hard worker, but I didn't think that was anything special.

Because of my low self-esteem I was an easy target for peer pressure. My parents never knew it was a problem until it was too late. I knew what to say to them about such things, but in private with my peers I always followed the crowd. I got into a whole bunch of trouble during my teen years in my efforts to find love and acceptance.

Watch her and try like the dickens now to raise up her esteem now.

4 moms found this helpful

This is coming from a mom with three boys, so take it with a grain of salt, but I remember feeling this way at 11. I agree with the other responses-- ESPECIALLY finding a Youth Group (I know a great one!!) and starting Tae Kwon Do (again, I know a great school!!) but there is one thing that I haven't seen addressed. Is there a Dad or some other strong, responsible man that she respects in the picture? A strong, dependable male figure can make a world of difference at this age-- and him finding her acceptable and intelligent and to be a blossoming young woman will mean to her more than Mom's words ever could. My favorite book for raising boys is Wild at Heart by Eldredge, and the companion book (for girls) is called Captivating, written by he and his wife. I learned so much about young girls and myself by reading this book. I think it may help a bunch to know a grown man that she trusts has faith that she is going to be a capable, beautiful woman. Just my two cents.


4 moms found this helpful

I just found out that there is a "5 love languages" book about kids!! That might really help too! I wish you the best of luck.

4 moms found this helpful

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