Grow a Healthy Sense of Self in Your Children

In Fatherhood 101 by Engagement

What Is Sense of Self

f101-tree2Sense of self can be described as how a child sees himself or herself, and is often classified into two main components.

  1. Self-concept – a child’s idea of him or herself constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others.
  2. Self-esteem – How much value a child perceives him or herself to have.

A child’s sense of self, will determine how he reacts to situations, for example, scoring badly on a test. A child with an unhealthy self-concept might simply believe himself to be unintelligent, while a child with a healthier self-concept would be spurred to work harder for the next test.

This sense of self is important as it helps the child maintain positivity in the face of failure or adversity, giving them impetus to persist with their goals. It can also help reduce the occurrence of psychological issues such as depression and anxiety later in life.

A child’s sense of self can have a profound effect on their performance in life. Children who have a healthy sense of self are more likely to try new things, learn new skills, and form healthy relationships with others. These factors can contribute to children’s success in school as well as later on when they embark on their careers.

How to cultivate an appreciation for sense of self in young children
  1. Unconditional love – Children need to feel that they are loved for who they are and not what they can do. Failure can be a very unpleasant experience, and when your child is facing failure, provide support and reassurance as opposed to piling on criticism. For example, if your child performs poorly in a test, instead of denigrating her, encourage her to try harder the next round. Let your child know that he or she is loved regardless, and that he or she will always be loved no matter how many failures he or she encounters.
  2. Celebrate the successes – On the flip side, it is also important to let your child know that his other successes are valued. Doing so will motivate him to strive harder, as children tend to respond well to positive reinforcement. Even small successes, like your child making his bed without being told to, should be complimented. It lets your child know that his efforts are appreciated and that he should continue making effort.
  3. Listen – If and when your child confides in you, give your undivided attention and really listen. Also, do not ridicule your child no matter how silly what he or she says may be. This conveys to your child that he or she is important and matters, and that he or she can come to you regarding any concern.
  4. Spend time with your child – Set aside time to spend with your child, express that this is “special time” set aside for him or her. This reiterates to the child that he or she is a top priority in your life and that you do wish to spend quality time with him or her.
  5. Make your child feel special – Help your child find his or her talents and special qualities. When they can identify the areas they excel in, they will be better able to value themselves and leverage these strengths for success. This will improve their self-esteem and confidence as they understand how their strengths mark them out as special. At the same point, it is important that you also remind your child that these qualities do not mean that he or she is better than others, and that everyone has their own merits.
  6. Stability – Provide your child with a stable environment, so as to instill in them a sense of security and a clear idea of what to expect from you. This can be achieved by you being consistent with them and ensuring that your words and your actions are congruent. For example, if you assure them that they are allowed to engage in a certain activity, do not punish them later for it out of spite or anger. Let your child know that they can trust you.
  7. Safety – Let your child feel safe. Foster an environment where they are safe from physical violence by enforcing clear rules and limits. This is so that a child can feel safe to explore and try new things. This safety will also allow a child to feel less afraid of failure, to try again when obstacles arise and as a result be more likely to achieve success, which will in turn boost his or her self-esteem.
Discovering a child’s personality type can help you further develop their strengths

Each child has their own unique personality, but often, his or her personality can be grouped under a broader umbrella. For example, the Briggs Myers Personality Types:

  1. Extraverted Sensing (ESP)
  2. Extraverted Intuition (ENP)
  3. Extraverted Feelers (EFJ)
  4. Extraverted Thinkers (ETJ)
  5. Introverted Sensing (ISJ)
  6. Introverted Feelers (IFP)
  7. Introverted Intuition (INJ)
  8. Introverted Thinkers (ITP)

There are numerous tests online which you and/or your child can do to determine his or her personality type, such as this one. Once you have determined your child’s personality type, you can better understand his strengths and weaknesses and alter your parenting behavior accordingly.

For example, the extraverted thinker (ETJ) thrives on competition and public accolades, so framing tasks as challenges would work better, as compared with an introverted feeler (IFP) who does not enjoy conflict as much.
The concept of having a sense of self is something that many fathers of the previous generation knew little about. They relied simply on what their own fathers did as a guide. However, access to better information and research, that overwhelmingly indicates that a positive sense of self is essential for a child to grow up psychologically healthy and can enhances their chances of succeeding in life can help fathers in this generation, do even better.


Briggs Myers, Isabel, McCaulley, Mary H., Quenk, Naomi L., & Hammer, Allen L. (1998). MBTI Manual (A guide to the development and use of the Myers Briggs type indicator). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Kidzmet (2012). Myers-Briggs Personality Types.


About the Author : The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.