Identifying Low Self-Esteem In Children

September 20, 2015

Identifying Low Self-esteem In Children

by Carolyn Bulmash, LCSW


Back to school time is upon us, and the children in our lives will soon be facing new social and emotional challenges.  Feelings of self-worth change shape and start to become solidified during adolescence.  It may be difficult for us to identify struggles in our children- we love them unconditionally.  Listed below are signs and symptoms that your child may be struggling with low self-esteem.


  • The child quits soon after beginning a game or a task, giving up at the first sign of frustration.
  • The child avoids a task or challenge without even trying. This often signals a sense of helplessness or fear of failure.
  • The child lies or cheats when they believe they are going to lose a game or do poorly.
  • The child becomes controlling, bossy, or inflexible as ways of hiding feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, or frustration.
  • The child makes excuses (“The teacher is dumb”) or downplays the importance of events (“I don’t really like that game anyway”), using this type of rationalizing to place blame on others or external forces.
  • The child shows signs of regression, acting baby-like or very silly. These types of behavior invite teasing and name-calling from peers, thus adding insult to injury.
  • The child experiences changing moods, exhibiting sadness, crying, angry outbursts, frustration, or quietness.
  • The child withdraws socially, losing or having less contact with friends.
  • The child has difficulty accepting either praise or criticism.
  • The child is either overly helpful or never helpful at home.
  • The child makes self-critical comments, such as “I never do anything right,” “Nobody likes me,” “I’m ugly,” “It’s my fault,” or “Everyone is smarter than I am.”
  • The child’s grades in school have declined, or he has lost interest in usual activities.
  • The child becomes overly concerned or sensitive about other people’s opinions of him.
  • The child seems to be strongly affected by negative peer influence, adopting attitudes and behaviors like a disdain for school, cutting classes, acting disrespectfully, shoplifting, or experimenting with tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.

If you believe a child in your life is struggling with self-esteem or any social or emotional adjustment, please contact one of our therapists at Associates in Psychotherapy (866) 220-8371