Building self-esteem - an approach and tool


ONE of the greatest struggles a child faces is that of self-esteem. What others think of them is very important. Often, they don’t feel good about themselves and lack confidence. As fathers, we have the opportunities to coach our tweens/teens to build confidence and boost their self-esteem.

Goal-setting, monitoring and meeting challenges

When your tweens/teens have an aspiration but not the motivation to realize it, it would be helpful as a coach to ask questions geared towards building their confidence to realise the aspiration. Your role is not to tell them specifically how to achieve their aspiration but to guide them in the direction of achieving success in their own way.

For your tween/teen to achieve his/her aspiration, he/she must:

  • have a clear goal.
  • see the benefits of their goal.
  • believe they can achieve the goal.
  • see progress along the way.
  • be aware of and be prepared to deal with any setbacks encountered along the way.

Ask the right questions

As a coach, our task is to set them on the right path with questions:

  • Setting general goals: "What are your best hopes?"
  • Setting clear goal:  "Can you be more specific in terms of what you want to accomplish?"
  • Identify the benefits: "How will achieving this goal be good for you?;  How will this be good for others?"
  • Belief:  "What gives you confidence that you will succeed?"
  • Build on past success:  "What similar goals have you accomplished in the past?"
  • Monitoring progress:  "What have you already accomplished towards this particular goal?;  What next small steps can you take towards this goal?"
  • Celebrating achievement:  "How will you celebrate when you achieve this goal?"

Apart from asking good questions, let's look at a useful tool that can help your tweens/teens make small steps towards their goal.

Avoid absolute ratings

Today I shall share one simple but very useful tool in motivating our tweens/teens to success. I began this series on the Father as Coach by sharing the importance of our perception of our youth. If we see only their mistakes, they will be failures in our eyes. If we view them as people with potential no matter where they are in life, our optimism will inspire them for success.

Unfortunately we tend to rate our tweens/teens in absolute “they are either successes or failures”. We often miss the progress they have made - especially so when it is small and “not noticeable”.

A motivating tool

One positive way to motivate our tweens/teens is to rate their progress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the perfect future when the task is accomplished and 1 a small step at the starting point. When your tween/teen comes to you with anxieties about a challenge or task ahead, you could ask him/her to rate himself on the progress scale.

It doesn’t matter where your tween/teen places himself/herself as long as he/she makes progress along the way. Your focus, as a coach, then is to help him/her to progress along the scale. The emphasis should not be on what he or she has yet to accomplish.


To focus on progress, you can ask your tweens/teens what they have achieved thus far for their rating, say 4. Your role, as a coach, is to flesh out as many things as possible that your tweens/teens have done right, to justify their rating at 4. In other words, you help your tweens/teens to see the progress they have made so as to motivate them.

Focusing on progress inspires.

Focusing on deficit discourages

When your tweens/teens have seen the progress they are making, you proceed to lead them to create or visualize the next few small steps they need to take to make further progress. One simple way to do this is to ask your tweens/teens what they think they need to do to move to 4.5 (the next small step).

 It is the small steps, when noticed, that motivates a tween/teen towards success. Not the giant steps!

Reflection pointers for fathers

  • What helped you overcome your insecurities in your own tween/teen years? Do you see that strategy (which helped you back then) as being effective in your child's life now?
  • When was the last time your children shared with you their dreams and aspirations?

A father’s journey is an ever changing and ever learning experience. As your child grows and meet new challenges, you progress with them.

  • Do you seek improvement and progress in your child’s life?
  • Do you compliment them for that little “success”?

Action pointers for fathers

  • Make a list of errands that you need to run this weekend. Take your child along with you. Make him/her “help” Daddy get these things done by today. In the process you can exemplify the correct way to do things through your actions.
  • Make little treasure hunt in your home. Place your child’s favourite things and toys in hiding places and create clues. Make it a game.
  • Buy a helium balloon for your young child - it is always a great gift for them!

Note: This article is part of a series first broadcast on 'Parenting Today' 93.8FM. A Certified Solution Focus Therapist, writer Edwin Choy is co-founder and director of the Centre for Fathering. He would like to hear your personal experiences in coaching your teens to help him improve his training workshop for fathers on coaching. Please email him at .



What's happening at Centre for Fathering (CFF)

  • Father-Child Bonding Camp (4-5 June 2010)

Our June Camp is open for registration now. Encounter the bonding experience of a lifetime to build a strong connection and relationship with your child.

  • Eat With Your Family Day 2010 (27 May 2010)

This year EWYFD will be launched on 27th May 2010. We have prepared a line up of programs and highlights to make this an enriching experience for everyone who participates. Make it a point to eat with your loved ones on that day and let that be an impetus to spur you to make the family meal an important appointment on a regular basis. Further details will be released to you soon.

  • Father-Teen Trekking Expedition (27-30 May 2010)

Embark on an exciting trekking expedition amongst the mountains of Cameron Highlands. The Father-child pair will take on Bukit Irau and find a time of mutual encouragement and a priceless bonding moment. The element of an adventure with one another will be a shared experience of a lifetime.


Click here for other articles on "Fathering Matters"

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