How to Help a Child Who is Struggling with Self-Esteem

As children get older and start spending more time with peers, it is natural that they begin comparing themselves to others. It’s healthy for children to want to excel and do their best, but itBlog-Self-Esteem-Main-Landscape becomes problematic when it comes at the expense of their self-esteem. Self-esteem can take time to develop and strengthen, but there are some things you can do to help enhance it during the earlier years.

What to Look for in a Child with Low Self-Esteem

If you notice your child making a lot of negative self-statements, this is indicative that he or she may be struggling with self-esteem. Negative self-statements are self-deprecating and tend to represent black and white thinking patterns. An example of a negative self-statement would be “I am dumb” or “I will never be good at this.”

It is very healthy for children to develop interests or hobbies and to spend time around others who enjoy similar things. Explore a variety of activities with your child and try to provide him/her with options. Whether it’s a cooking class or swimming lessons, your child is bound to show interest in something. Listen to your child and give him/her the autonomy to choose something that really interests him/her. Check out your local park district or community center to see what programs they offer. The Chicago Park District has dozens of wonderful programs and activities that may interest your child.

Each child has their own strengths, talents, and qualities that make them unique. That being said, it is great to point them out when you notice them! It is human nature to enjoy hearing that others are noticing the things we are doing well. At the same time, it is important to help your child understand that they are not defined by their achievements. Think about some adjectives that describe your child (i.e. compassionate, kind, caring). These intrinsic qualities are really what makes someone special – not the amount of trophies or ribbons on their shelf. Plant Love Grow is a wonderful website that has lots of self-esteem boosting activities that you and your child can do together.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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money-free rewards

Reward Your Child Without Breaking The Bank

Reward (noun): a token given in recognition of effort, service or accomplishment.

Everyone, no matter their age, recognizes the positive aspects of being rewarded for hard work and perseverance. Asmoney-free rewards adults, we get rewarded at work with words of praise or a monetary bonuses, encouraging us to continue to strive beyond the minimum. Children, just as adults, recognize and understand the idea of a reward. It is something that is earned; it is something we look forward too; it is something that provides a sense of accomplishment.

Parents often navigate the process of rewarding through toys. However, rewarding children with toys and games can become expensive. Here are a few non-monetary rewards for your children that can build self-confidence, strengthen your relationship, and establish life-long skills for goal attainment.

Money-Free Rewards for Kids:

  1. One-on-one time: Children, especially children who have siblings, crave alone time with one or both of their parents. This is time in which the full attention is on them, their laughs and their actions. One-on-one time can be as simple as a drive around town, an ice-cream date, an hour of play time or even just time when your phone is put away and your to-do task is hidden.
  2. The privilege of picking their favorite game during family game night or favorite movie during family movie night.
  3. Reduction of chores for a day: reward behaviors and accomplishments by allowing your child to “earn no chores” for a day. It’s like you earning a vacation day!
  4. Choosing his favorite meal for dinner.
  5. Additional screen time: an extra few minutes of screen time, whether it be an iPad or television, can be earned. When using this reward system make sure that rules are established and understood, just as normal screen time rules are known.

Click here to read more about using rewards to help your child behave.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

praise your child the right way

Praise Your Child The Right Way

Praise is an important part of raising a child with healthy self-esteem. The right kind of praise can make the difference between having a child with self-confidence and grit and a child who depends on outside praise for his sense of self-worth. Praise your child the right way with these 5 tips.

5 Tips to Praise Your Child the Right Way:praise your child the right way

  1. Be Specific: Instead of saying, “Good job!” say, “Good job staying focused and finishing all ten math problems. I’m so proud of you.” Being specific makes praise more meaningful because it attunes your child to his or her special effort or skill and makes that specific action or effort more motivating in the future.
  2. Praise the Process: Praise hard work, perseverance, and resilience, even if the objective was not reached. Success doesn’t always come on the first try. People aren’t always born with innate talents. Praise for the process encourages continued effort in the future.
  3. Pick Praiseworthy Situations: Praise is most effective and meaningful when given at times when your child is attempting to do something out of his or her normal pattern of behavior, for example: overcome a challenge, follow through on a difficult task, or put in extra effort.
  4. Know Your Child’s Strengths/Weaknesses: To identify praiseworthy situations, you need to be attuned to your child’s abilities. Praise is most needed when your child participates in a challenging activity or when he/she is concerned about his/her performance.
  5. Don’t Overdo It: Praise is extremely important, but praising your child for everything he or she does, can make your positive words meaningless. Make sure your praise is sincere.

Read here for more on the power of positive praise.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today! 

Giving kids power

How to Give Appropriate Power to Children

Have you ever found yourself engaged in a power struggle with your child?  Most parents have and they can also relate to those uncomfortable feelings that often accompany such struggles.  Ironically, those feelings of frustration, being misunderstood and unappreciated, anger, exhaustion and powerlessness are all too commonly experienced on both sides of the struggle- by you and your child.

Feeling that we have influence over our lives impacts our sense of security and self-efficacy.  Think about this in the context of parenting.  When your children follow rules to complete their homework before watching TV and subsequently earn good grades, you feel that you are able to parent effectively.  You feel good about this and, ultimately, you feel good about yourself.  You are aware of the connection between your help with the child’s schoolwork and the resulting good grade.  This is true for children as well.

One way to manage power struggles is actively to elect to give your child power in the situation through choices.  You are not relinquishing your authority as a parent, but rather providing an opportunity for your child to grow.  Providing children with choices allows them to learn the connection between their behavior and the consequence (good or bad).  It also allows children to feel they have a positive way to impact their life.  As adults, we need to help children find those positive opportunities for them to  feel powerful.  As children see making a choice is an effective way to have influence and express oneself, children are less likely to engage in tantrums or power struggles as they can see there is another way that works.  Furthermore, as children grow, learning to make choices increases their sense of independence and self-esteem.  This is particularly important as children move into the teenage years where they are faced with difficult decisions and peer pressure.  Teens with higher self-esteem are going to be more likely to make safe and positive choices even in the face of peer pressure.

Tips for Giving Children Appropriate Power:

  1. Giving kids powerRecognizing your own feelings (without judgment) is an important step in taking control of these situations.  Once you are aware of your feelings, you can make a choice to model self-regulation and positive decision making for your child while you work to address the situation.
  2. Provide children with opportunities to make choices.  Giving children choices allows you as the parent to provide structure and security while fostering independence and self-esteem.  Children are more likely to connect their behavior with a consequence (good or bad) when they have the opportunity to make a choice that includes their action and a result.
  3. Natural consequences are a great first step in providing choices.  For instance, if a child throws a toy across the room, first ask the child to pick it up.  If the child will not pick it up, then provide a choice of picking up the toy or taking a time out.
  4. Allow children to express anger, frustration, and emotions in appropriate ways.  Encourage them to share this with you.  Listen and validate their feelings.  Even if you do not agree with your child, your child’s emotions are real to him/her.  Knowing he/she can share this with you even if you feel differently decreases their need to express this in maladaptive ways.  During this time, try to refrain from jumping into problem solving mode as this takes away the child’s sense of power in addressing these.
  5. Accept your child’s choice even if it is not the choice you had hoped they would make.  Acceptance–without showing your disappointment or frustration in that moment–will allow the child the autonomy of experiencing his choice.  Sometimes children may make a choice to earn a consequence for reasons that had not been apparent to the adults.  When all are calm, ask the child about this in a genuinely curious and non-judgmental fashion.  This may provide you with important insight.
  6. Put less emphasis on the punishment and more emphasis on earning privileges.  Children will be more motivated to work for a goal rather than to avoid a sanction.
  7. It is important to be consistent and follow through.  Structure allows children to feel safe.  This increases a child’s sense of security, independence, and self-esteem.
  8. In the case of older children, a great way to work in opportunities for them to feel independent and powerful is asking for their input on age appropriate issues.  For instance, in planning a birthday party for Grandma (assuming she does not care) you might ask your child, “Do you think Grandma would like chocolate or vanilla ice cream with her birthday cake?”  This shows your child his/her opinion matters and validates self-worth.  Building up self-worth in times when things are not a midst a power struggle helps to mediate the more difficult times.
  9. When things don’t go well, talk about it with your children.  It is important to share how you might have made a better choice as well as ask them about their part in a power struggle.  This is not effective when emotions are high: it is important to wait until both you and your child have had the opportunity to calm down.  You might even ask your child how to better manage this in the future.
  10. An appropriate way for kids to feel power in relationships is through play.  Play is the child’s medium for making sense of the world.  Initiate a game of make-believe with your child and allow him to assign you a role.  Allow him (assuming the play is safe) to be the powerful character.  As you continue to play, you may find the child will change the roles; this shows his process of working it through.  Play strategies are appropriate for older children as well.   Play is a great way to give children power and a sense of self-efficacy: playing games together provides problem solving practice and creates opportunities to practice winning/losing in an appropriate manner.

In essence, as a parent, helping your child find positive ways to have control in your relationship is a strong life lesson.  This is a challenging task and requires you to relinquish control of some things you may want to go a specific way.  In the bigger picture of your child’s life, however, if the child is safe and you feel you can accept a minor change in a plan, it will be well worth all your efforts.

tips to improve your child's self esteem

Tips to Enhance Your Child’s Self Esteem

Try these tips to enhance your child’s self-esteem

Self-esteem impacts the choices we make, the company we keep, and the desire to take risks. Without a positive self-image, children run the risk of experiencing negative peer relationships, social withdrawal, and reduced confidence in their capabilities.

By adding a strengths-based vocabulary and opportunities for your child to shine, you can encourage increased motivation and positive feelings of self in your child.

Adding a strengths-based vocabulary allows you to frame your dialogue in a positive, support language.

Using words like “you could” vs. “you should” promotes a sense of control and confidence in your child’s capabilities.  Challenging your child to replace words like “can’t” with “can” gives ownership over the task and enhances the desire to try new things and enter into new situations. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t do my math, it’s too hard,” it would be better to rephrase that as, “My math is hard but I can ask for help.  I can work on my other work first that is easier, and I can try my best and continue to practice getting the correct answer.” As a parent you can encourage your child to replace her negative vocabulary with the positive.

Offer positive words of praise.

Whether your child has succeed in task or not does not matter; try to identify the positives that exist including effort that was exuded, the skills that were still acquired ( i.e. new time management skills, new friends in the process), and the success of putting herself out there to try something new. Additionally, it is important to highlight what your child’s strengths are, and continue to find outlets to let them shine. If your child is more of a creative, artistic type, enroll her in extra-curriculars that allows her to tap into her strengths. It is not to say that she should NEVER try something outside of her comfort zone, though, because through this she can learn more about herself. But it is important to provide your child with balanced opportunities to excel and grow.

A Mother’s Role in Raising a Confident Daughter

As girls grow and develop, their overall sense of self-worth and confidence grows and changes.  Sadly, in confident daughteradolescence, a girl’s confidence and sense of self-worth often plummets.  This is due to the fact that beginning in the preteen years, body image becomes the barometer by which many girls measure their self-worth.  Confidence becomes one with how a young girl looks, and as a result, how she feel about herself.  The message our young girls receive is this: Women in our society are valued based on their physical attractiveness.  A mother is the main role model in her young daughter’s life.  Her daughter subconsciously takes in how her mother carries herself, regards herself, and thinks about herself. For this reason, mothers play a pivotal role in how a young girl navigates this challenging time. Read more

Choosing The Right Friends: Supporting your Child’s Resiliency Against Peer Pressure

The older they get, the more independent they get. For adolescents, the world revolves around the friendship circle. While you can’t choose friends for your children, you can teach them how to choose wisely.  Some parents don’t get involved until it’s too late, when they desperately want their children to stop hanging out with bad influences. This may be accomplished, but the problem may return when the child meets someone similar. It’s more valuable to teach children about what a good friend means, rather than seek control over each individual peer of choice. You can start by asking your children to make a list of qualities that make up a “good friend” and helping them think about it objectively.

teenage friends standing outside

When discussing specific peers in their life, you can use the following questions as a screener:

Good Friend Checklist

  • Are you able to be yourself around them?
  • Do they make you feel good about yourself?
  • Do you have interests and hobbies in common?
  • Do you take turns being leader and follower?
  • Would you stand up for each other?
  • Do they want to help you when you’re upset?
  • Do they listen when you need to talk about your feelings?
  • Do they respect you when you say “no”?
  • Can you work it out together when you have a fight?

If most of the answers are “yes”, the friendship is likely to be a positive one and hopefully boosts self-esteem. If most of the answers are “no”, the friendship could lead to insecurity and poor decision-making and should be re-considered.  The “no” answers can also help identify which skills may need to be taught or strengthened.

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How to Maximize a Playdate for a Child with Speech Delays | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a pediatric speech pathologist explains ways to help a child with speech delays play well with others. She provides useful strategies to encourage communications and respect between the children. For speech game ideas read our blog “5 Board Games That Promote Speech-Language Skills

  • The right timing for a playdate
  • How to introduce a speech delayed child to a regular child
  • What signs to look out for as the playdate progresses

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here today with Megan Grant, a Pediatric Speech
and Language Pathologist. Megan, can you give our viewers some tips on how
to maximize a play date with a child with delayed speech?

Megan: Sure. A play date for a child with delayed speech and language
skills isn’t going to look that much different than that of a play date for
a child with typically developing skills. However, there are some key
things to keep in mind. Make sure that you time it right. Make sure that
the play date is scheduled after naptime and after mealtime, so that the
kids are well rested, their bellies are fully and they are ready to play
and interact with each other.

Also you want to make sure to keep it brief. Sometimes, 45 minutes to an
hour is only what the kids will tolerate in the beginning, so don’t worry
that the play date should be three or four hours at a time. You definitely
need to make sure that you keep it short, especially in the beginning. Kids
will work up that way. Also, introduce a friend who’s familiar to your
child. That’s definitely going to be a key as well. Someone who is from
music class or from school is going to be more accustomed to interacting
with your child, and your child is likely going to be able to interact with
them much better than if you introduce someone who is entirely new to them.

When you do have a child who has delayed speech and language, you can pre-
teach the other child and say, “You know, Billy’s still learning how to
talk.” And let them know that that’s OK. Sometimes, kids are very
receptive and they pick up very easily on the nuances of other children, so
that’s definitely going to help as well. Keep in mind that you are going to
have to provide models, more so than with kids who are typically
developing. Kids who have delayed speech and language aren’t necessarily
going to initiate and maintain play as easily, so you’re going to have to
jump in there and let them resolve some conflicts, but definitely give them
the support that they’re going to need. And just have fun. Watch for signs
of frustration. If your child starts to break down, you definitely want to
jump in there and you can feel free to end the play date sooner than later.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, Megan, and thank you to our
viewers. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at That’s

Get your Child Ready for 1st Grade

For many children going to 1st grade is a huge milestone.  More hours spent in school, higher expectations for academic, behavior,  social skills, and more peer pressure.Child in First Grade

Here are some tips to parent these kids as “right” as you can before 1st grade:


  • Prepare your child with some online fun academics, flash cards, or any workbook for 1st grade readiness;  but make it fun!  10 minutes per day is enough! You can even try KUMON math and reading to get them strong in basics for math and reading.  This will also prepare them with homework.
  • Strengthen up any weaknesses your child may have in academics. If they need a little reading help, use the following tips in this blog. If they need some number work, try flashcards, or try a tutor, but even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in their self esteem about academics.
  • Get your child tested now if you detect any challenges. Don’t wait for the teacher to say something at conferences!  Go get a good neuropsychological exam and you will know what strengths and challenges your child has and have an opportunity to grow them.
  • Use a daily schedule even in first grade for time management and learning appropriate skills.


  • Make sure your child knows how to follow rules, understands boundaries, and knows the expectations of first grade children.  This includes raising hands, taking turns, staying quiet and getting involved/participation, etc.
  • Get your child some support if behavior is an issue.  There are social groups, social workers, books, all kinds of tools to help out there!
  • Your child needs to know what YOU expect of him and what your consequences  are at home.
  • Make sure your family gets proper sleep and food daily.

Social skills/Peer Pressure

  • Make play dates for your child and help model proper 1st grade skills.
  • Join a community playgroup/social group at a local clinic, park district or religious organization.
  • If you suspect something is still off about his social skills, get him evaluated and he can practice his skills with the right support.
  • Make sure to keep your child engaged and talkative with you so you can help him through the tough and great times of 1st grade.

Good luck!

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Tips to Overcome Shyness | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric social worker explains ways to help your child overcome shyness.  The following strategies are helpful if a child may have issues communicating with others and who is afraid of public.

In this video you will learn:

  • The natural approach to shyness
  • 3 Tips to overcome shyness
  • How to help a child understand shyness

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and today I am sitting here with pediatric social
worker, Michelle Winterstein. Michelle, can you tell us what are
some three tips to overcome shyness?

Michelle: Yes, Robyn. Many children of all ages suffer from shyness. The
three tips that I would most recommend would be the first thing
is to identify what’s causing the shyness. By knowing the cause,
you can better determine what approach to take in helping your
child better get along with others.

The next thing would be exposure, exposure, exposure, whether
this be taking your child to the grocery store when you go or
family events. The more they’re exposed to, the better.

And the third most important thing I would suggest would be to
be a role model for your child. Show your child that you’re
comfortable interacting with people and that you know when it’s
needed to be assertive. Along with that, if you ever see your
child struggling or in need of some extra attention or a push,
be there to help your child.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much. Those are some wonderful tips,
and thank you to our viewers. Remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at That’s