Many parents think praise is the best way to build a child's self image. Although praise is important and can be a healthy tool to use to boost children's confidence, it's important to use praise properly and not over-use it. It is important to teach children that their uniqueness, talents, gifts, and "specialness" come from God. Praise helps point out to them what some of these qualities about themselves may be. However, we can't praise our children into competence. Being good at something takes time, effort, and practice. Use praise wisely so children can know where they excel, and how to measure their growth/achievements in other areas that perhaps they weren't naturally competent in. My 8 year old daughter, Sophia, is a very advanced reader, and a creative artist. I make sure to praise her in these areas, and am honest about how naturally talented she is in these areas. On the other hand, when it comes to gymnastics, Sophia is not exactly Simone Biles. However, when I see her practicing extra, trying her best, and making improvements in this area, I make sure to praise her and let her know how proud I am of her hard work. Sometimes she gets frustrated, and I remind her of the other areas God has blessed her with talent in.
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The best way to build a child's self image is to teach them who they are IN Christ. This is where their true identity resides! The only way to do this, is staying consistent in the WORD throughout their daily lives and never turn down a question about God's Word. Even if you are unsure of the answer, answer to the best of your ability, and honestly. If you haven't fully answered their question, let them know that you will study the WORD and talk it over with your spouse, or another Christian, and get back to them (best by the end of the day). Also, ask them questions. Jesus did this all the time to help His disciples discover who He was and who they were through Him. Heart probing will teach children how to search and evaluate their own hearts for sinful motives. Instead of being quick to judge the thoughts and motives of our children; ask them a few well thought out questions about their actions and motives behind their actions. By doing so you can assist them in pulling out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. In turn leaving them with a lesson learned, more confidence in doing the right thing next time, confidence in who they really are IN Christ. Just today, my 6 year old daughter Milena (Millie for short) called her sister stupid. I calmly asked her to stop, but my calmness was not enough to prevent a meltdown. Millie does not like to disappoint, and in most cases, will break down and cry when she is caught doing something wrong, before she is even disciplined for it. After her frustration subsided a bit we had a conversation that went a little like this:
Me: "Why are are you crying so hard?"
Millie: "Because I called Sophia stupid."
Me: "Do you think that made God happy or sad?"
Me: "Is stupid a nice name or a bad name?"
Millie: (starting to cry a little harder again) "A bad name!"
Me: "Right it is a bad name. But you are not a bad girl are you? You just made a bad choice by calling her that name. God still loves you very much. So much that He sent His son Jesus to wash away our bad choices. Sometimes sisters don't get along well. Living with them and sharing our stuff can be challenging. Sometimes they can make us mad. But God tells us, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth..." [Ephesians 4:29a], and that the words of your mouth should be helpful in building others up according to their needs. [Ephesians 4:29b]. What can you do differently next time when she makes you mad?"
Millie: "Walk away, or come tell you."
Me: "That sounds like a good plan. Let's pray about this and then you can go tell Sophia you are sorry."
Milena was reminded that she is loved, and that she is not a bad girl. Bad choices don't change who we are In Christ. Her self image was reassured. She reconnected with God through prayer, asked Him for forgiveness, and to help her to stay focused and be a kind sister. Then she reconciled with her sister by apologizing. Problem solved! Providing your children with Godly wisdom during times of uncertainty can equip them with a confident view of what they are doing is pleasing to God, in turn leaving them with a positive self image.
Remember to use actual scripture in teaching your children their self-worth. God's WORD never comes back void. Just speaking His Word out loud in your home holds power and blessings for your family.
Teach your children that Our Father God not only fearfully and wonderfully created them, but that He knows them better than they know themselves. We are all His children! Tell them that they are God's precious children! "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." (1 John 3:1 NKJV).
The world defines self-esteem as “a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities” (Merriam Webster dictionary). The Bible says our self-esteem comes from Jesus, and it’s not a feeling. It's a fact.
The number one book I recommend to read with your children to help the development of their self image flourish into what God created them to be is the children's version of Hinds Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard.
For the parents of sons. (Wives, I also recommend reading this book to help understand your husband's better):
Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul, by John Eldridge:
There is a nice personal guide that goes with this book. If interested, check it out here:
For the parents of daughters. (Husbands, I also recommend reading this book to help understand your wives better):
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul, by John and Stasi Eldridge:
There's also a great study guide journal to this, which I own and found to enrich what I learned so much more. It can be found here: