Four Helpful Thoughts for Kids & Teens to Build Self-Esteem

Helping children and teens talk back to their self-defeating thoughts

Posted Apr 20, 2013

Children can improve their self-esteem through learning two crucial skills: calming down and solving problems. Children and teens benefit from being coached to talk back to their self-defeating thoughts. This helps them calm down and problem-solve in the face of inevitable frustrations and stress. The following are a sample of cognitive reframing strategies for children and teens to help them build resilience and self-esteem.

Unhelpful Thought: I feel stupid because I can’t understand this homework! It's so easy for everyone but me!

Helpful Thought: I am allowed to feel frustrated with stuff that is hard-to-learn but giving my best effort will help me feel best about it. It also helps my confidence to focus on the other subjects that come easier to me.

Unhelpful Thought: I can’t stand my body! All these other girls/guys are skinnier/more buff and more attractive than me!

Helpful Thought: Focusing on what I like about my looks, taking good care of myself, and accepting that I don’t have to be perfect sure feels better than making myself miserable!

Unhelpful Thought: Those kids were whispering things about me. They must think I am a loser.

Helpful Thought: I don’t have control over what other kids think or do but I am in charge of my value, not them. Not everyone may like me, but the more I hang out with kids I feel good about, the better I will feel.

Unhelpful Thought: I hate doing this because there is no point in learning it!

Helpful Thought: It’s ok that I may not want to do this work now, but reminding myself that it could be helpful later on to learn this, may help me get through it and get it over with.

Dr Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist, and personal and executive coach in the greater Philadelphia area. He has been on the Today Show, Radio, and has written four popular books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child and 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child. You can also follow Dr. Jeff on Twitter