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Building Self-Esteem - Giving Choices



“I did it!” These words, spoken by a young child in my preschool class, always filled me with joy.  These words told me that this child felt good about herself and that my classroom was contributing to her healthy self-esteem.  There are many techniques to support young children’s self-esteem in the classroom, and they can be great to use with your child at home.


One such technique is to give children choices as often as possible.  It is important to make sure that the choices you offer are acceptable, however.  Here is an example:  The time to put toys away arrives and a child resists cleaning up. If I asked, “do you want to put the toys away?” the child would most likely say “no.”  But if I said, “it’s time to put the toys away.  Do you want to put the toys away by yourself, or do you want me to do it with you?” the child can then choose what she wants to do, and either choice is acceptable.  Putting away the toys was non-negotiable, but how to put the toys away was decided by the child.


Try using this strategy at home.  For example, rather than telling your child that it is time for bed, try offering a choice, such as, “It’s time to get ready for bed.  Do you want to brush your teeth before or after you put on your pajamas?”  Giving your child a choice helps him feel in control and feeling in control contributes to healthy self-esteem.


The next time you need your child to do something, take a moment to think of two options to offer your child.  Make sure both options are acceptable to you.  When you have decided on two choices, tell your child what they are, using a positive tone of voice, and simple, direct language.  Once your child makes a choice, follow through and stick to the choice.  Soon, giving your child acceptable options will become second nature to you, and you will be building your child’s self-esteem.


Toni Danilevsky is a retired early childhood educator, children’s arts and recreation center director, and college lecturer.