Self-Compassion: Helping Your Child or Teen Develop More than Self-Esteem

Children and teens who struggle with executive functioning problems often lose esteem because of continued failures and struggles. They negatively compare themselves to their peers who don’t struggle, and over time, they can become unmotivated. Poor motivation can lead to negative self-beliefs, harmful actions, and a cycle of continued failure.

Struggling children and teens tend to “generalize” their challenges with school work and getting along well with others at school to their overall abilities. Even though a child or teen may perform well on non-academic tasks, if she struggles at school, she may make statements like, “I can’t do anything right!” or “I’m a total failure.”  Over time, these statements become a self-fulfilling prophecy and she may develop learned helplessness.

The good news is that parents and educators can help change a child or teen’s trajectory in life by helping them develop self-compassion.

Self-compassion is not self-esteem where one compares ones’ self with others.  It is also not self-centeredness where one feels that one is better than others.  True self-compassion involves understanding one’s strengths and needs, being kind to one’s self, arguing with one’s inner critic, and developing self-direction through problem-solving and goal-achieving.

In this series of articles, I outline how you how to build up your child or teen’s resilience step-by-step.


Give the Gift of Self-Acceptance

The first step in improving your child’s resilience is to help her accept both her strengths and her needs.  These articles outline steps to help you and your child.

Helping your child/teen understand his or her worth

Helping your child/teen understand her challenges

Identifying role models

Becoming a strength detective

Identifying and emphasizing your child/teen’s talents

Give the Gift of Self-Compassion

True self-compassion involves understanding your human-ness, being kind to yourself, and defending yourself against your inner critic.  It also involves learning how to problem-solve in a safe and nurturing atmosphere.

Helping your child/teen recognize negative self-talk

Helping your child/teen change negative self-talk

Modeling good problem solving

Give the Gift of Self-Direction

Self-direction grows out of self-compassion.  Once your child or teen starts to recognize his true worth and starts to develop realistic self-talk, he will start to gain self-direction through a structured approach to setting and achieving goals.

Goal setting: identifying goals

Goal setting: clarifying goals

Goal setting: visualizing goals

Goal setting: setting goals

Goal achieving: taking daily action

Goal achieving: evaluating progress often

Step-by-step, you can change the trajectory of a struggling child or teen! One of the greatest rewards in life occurs when a struggling child or teen has gathered strength from you.

Need Help Applying These Concepts?

Call 817.421.8780 to make an appointment.


(c) 2009-2014, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.