Building Self-respect In Children - Lessons For Life

Written by Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich on Tue, 21 November 2023 — Fact checked by Dr. Bugaeva Irina Viktorovna

Key Highlights

  • Children with self-respect have better mental health outcomes and healthy relationships
  • Self-respect and self-love go hand in hand
  • Practicing self-compassion reduces anxiety and depression
  • Open communication can promote a positive body image

Do you remember your childhood? Childhood, a pivotal phase of development, shapes the course of one's life. The experiences and environment encountered during this time, coupled with intentionally taught principles, greatly impact an individual's values, beliefs, and overall well-being, laying the foundation for their future journey.

Self-respect is an important concept that plays a crucial role in the development of children and contributes significantly to their overall well-being. When children have a healthy sense of self-respect, they exhibit positive self-esteem and confidence, enabling them to navigate challenges and setbacks with resilience. Children with self-respect are more likely to have better mental health outcomes, improved academic performance, and healthier relationships.

By recognizing and valuing their worth, children develop a positive self-image, contributing to their emotional, cognitive, and social development. Encouraging self-respect in children is essential for their holistic growth and prepares them for a fulfilling and prosperous future.

Read on to know how you can build self-respect in children by giving them some unique life lessons.

Self-respect versus self-esteem

Self-respect can be defined as respect for oneself as a human being. In short, it implies valuing yourself. Self-regarding involving one's values include self-respect and self-esteem. Despite common confusion between the terms, the ideas and phenomena are separate.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, self-respect is "proper regard for the dignity of one's person or position". Self-esteem is defined as "a favourable appreciation or opinion of oneself." Self-esteem is not a normative concept, whereas self-respect is.

Understanding self-respect in children

Children should be taught self-respect as soon as they can speak. Children pick up self-respect skills from what they hear their parents say or see them do. They discover what is right and wrong in this way. They observe the behaviours their parents tolerated or wanted to prevent.

By simply giving children the love they deserve, they start understanding what they don’t deserve and how they can stand up for themselves. When we are young, we are taught to be kind to strangers and to tell our family and friends that we love them, so why don't we do the same for ourselves? Before you learn to love yourself, you cannot respect yourself. Self-respect and self-love go hand in hand.

Factors influencing the development of self-respect in children

Factors influencing the development of self-respect in children

Parents and caregivers - Parents and caregivers play a vital role in fostering self-respect in children. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), providing a nurturing and supportive environment, setting positive examples, and offering praise and constructive feedback help children develop a strong sense of self-worth and respect for themselves and others.

School environment and peer interactions - The school environment and peer interactions play a crucial role in nurturing self-respect in children. A supportive school environment that encourages positive social interactions and provides opportunities for self-expression promotes self-respect in children, empowering them to develop healthy relationships and a positive self-image.

Building a foundation of self-respect in children

Building a foundation of self-respect in children can go a long way in developing self-respect throughout their lives.

Fostering positive self-image and self-worth

Bringing up positive self-image and self-worth in children is crucial for developing their self-respect, empowering them to embrace their unique qualities and value their inherent worth. Learning to love and accept oneself is the first step toward developing a positive self-image. The following steps can be used to develop a positive self-image in children:

  • Making a list of their positive qualities
  • Defining their personal goals and objectives that are reasonable and measurable
  • Avoiding comparison with others
  • Developing their strengths
  • Giving positive affirmations

Encouraging self-expression and creativity

Encouraging self-expression and creativity

The development of children includes a lot of self-expression. Your child should have the freedom and safety to express his feelings, emotions, thoughts, and creativity. One of the most effective ways to support your child's self-expression is frequently to cultivate an environment that values respect, love, and compassion. You can help your child express any emotions he or she may be having by writing, coloring, drawing, or painting. This in turn helps them develop their creativity.

Teaching self-compassion and acceptance

Teaching children the values of self-compassion and acceptance empowers them to embrace their imperfections, practice self-kindness, and cultivate a positive and nurturing relationship with themselves. There are many advantages to practicing self-compassion, including reduced anxiety and depression.

Simple ways to teach self-compassion to children include things that help them feel improved physical ability like eating healthy food, taking a walk, resting, etc. Asking children to write a letter to themselves and acknowledge their feelings can also help.

Nurturing healthy relationships

For your child's future health, it can be crucial to set an example of healthy relationships and teach them the characteristics of such relationships. The early lessons help children feel well-being at every stage of life by teaching them how to maintain positive and open interactions with friends and family.

Establishing boundaries and assertiveness

Teaching children the importance of establishing boundaries and cultivating assertiveness empowers them to protect their well-being, communicate their needs effectively, and navigate relationships with confidence and self-respect.

Building empathy and respect for others

Building empathy and fostering respect for others in children cultivates a compassionate and inclusive society. By understanding and valuing different perspectives, children develop meaningful connections, appreciation, and a sense of collective well-being.

Promoting a healthy body image

Promoting a healthy body image

The concept of "body image" refers to how individuals view their own bodies. Children and teenagers frequently experience intense pressure to conform to strict, harmful societal standards of beauty, body type, weight, and shape. Promoting a positive body image starts with open communication with your child.

Use positive language - In general, refrain from criticizing the physical appearance of others. Instead, focus on a person's character traits like optimism, perseverance, and kindness.

Be the ideal role model - Your child can be greatly impacted by the way you talk about and treat your body. Avoid saying things like "your body is not good enough" or "it doesn't fit with my clothes," which are common but subtle negative comments about your body.

Encourage a healthy lifestyle - Encourage your children to eat a healthy, balanced diet and perform regular physical activity including sports.


Building self-respect in children is a lifelong journey, requiring patience, consistency, and love.

By following these strategies and creating a nurturing environment, you can help your child develop a strong sense of self-worth that will serve as a solid foundation for their future. Remember that every child is unique, and it's essential to tailor your approach to their individual needs and personalities.

The investment in building their self-respect will pay off in the form of confident, resilient, and emotionally healthy adults.

Frequently Asked Questions

Self-esteem is the evaluation of one's self-worth based on external factors, while self-respect is an internal belief in one's inherent value. Self-respect is more stable and less influenced by external validation.

Building self-respect is an ongoing process, but you can start fostering a healthy sense of self-worth from a very young age. Encourage open communication and positive reinforcement as early as possible.

Teach your child that criticism and failure are part of life's learning process. Emphasize the importance of effort and resilience, and help them develop problem-solving skills to overcome challenges.

Signs of low self-respect in children can include excessive self-criticism, withdrawal, a fear of trying new things, difficulty making decisions, and seeking constant external validation.

Yes, cultural and societal influences can play a significant role in shaping a child's self-respect. It's essential to be aware of these influences and counteract any negative messages or stereotypes that may affect a child's self-worth.


Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich

Dr. Kulyk Alexander Petrovich is a Ukraine-based gynecologist, with extensive experience in women's health. In 1995, he graduated from the Kyiv Medical University, and specialized in gynecology. He then went on to work as a gynecologist in the Institute of Pediatric, Obstetrics and Gynecology in Kyiv, where he worked until the year 2000.

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