Building Your Child's Self-Concept


The behavior of children is largely a function of how they feel about themselves; so parents must be intentional about responding to their children in ways that build up children’s self-concept.  A self-concept building response gives the child credit for knowing or doing. 

Four-year-old Christina counts all the animals she is playing with.  Parent: “You know how to count.”  Recognizing and responding to a child’s knowing how to do something enhances the child's sense of self. 

Self-Concept building statements help children experience themselves as capable when the parent responds to the effort rather than the product.  “You made that just the way you wanted it to be.”  “You’re working hard on that chemistry project.” 

A child struggles to put two objects together and accomplishes the task, “There, you figured that out all by yourself.”

An adolescent repairs a leaky faucet, “You knew just how to fix that."

Other possible self-concept building responses might be:

  • "You know how to make that work."

  • "Looks like you know how to …"

  • "You remembered where that was."

  • "You decided …"

  • "You know just how you want it to look."

  • "You got it open."

  • "There, you made it stay together."

  • "You figured out how to..."

Self-concept building responses help children feel capable and facilitate development of a child’s intrinsic sense of self.


You can build your child’s self-concept and encourage self-reliance by returning responsibility to your child with words like:

  • You can decide which color to use.
  • You can decide which shirt to wear.
  • You can decide which phone case you would enjoy using.
  • You can decide how to ask your teacher.

The parent believes the child is capable and is willing to provide appropriate opportunities for the child to make decisions. The process of decision making helps children learn self-control, self-discipline and self-responsibility as described in the Choices, Cookies & Kids DVD.