Helping with Low Self-Esteem



I'm not in the habit of asking for advice, but I'd like a different perspective on this. My little brother is eleven and has trouble at times with low self-esteem. Sometimes, when I have to discipline him, (for those who don't know, I'm his guardian) his response is something along the lines of "I'm so dumb" and one time he burst into tears and sobbed about how he hates "all the trouble I cause you." I know there are a few kids at school who pick on him, but he has a group of friends who look out for him (plus, I've found I can raise hell with their parents). He's also had a problem with wetting the bed in recent years, which often embarasses him and makes him feel babyish

I love my brother so much that it hurts me to see that he doesn't love himself. Since Advent began he seems to be doing better - he got involved with helping the homeless through his youth group, and he just lights up about it. Some advice, though, would be appreciated.


I think you are on the right track with getting him involved in ministry. To have good self-esteem, you have to do esteemable acts. (can't remember who said that but it's not mine.) I think we have told generations of kids that they are wonderful and fantastic without doing a thing to deserve praise. Take him out of himself by giving him tasks out in the world. He will also mature beyond his peers by doing this.

I would be very gentle with the discipline. It sounds like your brother has a conscience and disciplines himself before you can get to him. Maybe just talk to him about his choices and options? Certainly not harsh punishment.

Oh, and see a pediatrician about the bed-wetting. There are some aids people can use to help train the kid not to let go. And the doctor can make sure there's nothing physical going on.

God bless you for taking care of your little brother!!!



Thank you, Juliane, for your post.

Pediatrician is a good idea; he has an appointment coming up anyway.

Trust me, I am careful with discipline; I make sure he understands what he's done, and the consequence of the action, and then act accordingly. I never discipline while angry. He's quite attached to me, so I don't want to make him feel he's lost my love.

[quote="TheRealJuliane, post:2, topic:222451"]
God bless you for taking care of your little brother!!!


And He does everyday; God couldn't have given me a better brother. He taught me how to love; I really had no idea how much I love him until I had to care for him.


Give him things he can do that he can succeed at. For example, if he is good at making art, help him put on an art show in your yard, or if he is good with music, help him put on a little concert for his friends - something that gives him a feeling of accomplishment, where people will give him honest praise.

Also, mention to him often when he does things that you like. It's easy to overlook it when a child is being good, because it's what is expected, after all - but if he knows that you notice when he's being good, that will also help to boost his self-esteem.

For example, you could say, "I really appreciate that you always remember to take out the garbage without being told to do it - you are a real help to me around the house." Or, "You are so kind to the Smith children - I am sure they appreciate you coming over to play with them, and keeping them from getting lonely." Remind him or point out to him that he does worthwhile things every day. :)


I would be careful not to let him find that a habit of self-pity excuses him from reasonable discipline. Encourage his self-esteem, but don't change expectations. Rather, frame the expectations as flowing from a positive and patient view of his potential.

The tack I take with my kids is this: I correct you because I see that you have what it takes to get this. I'm not trying to teach ballet to a bear. You will get to be good at this. You don't have to be perfect. You are great for eleven. You don't have to get it in a day. I correct you, though, because we're working on the fine man you'll be when you're 18 and 21 and beyond. That man is going to need discipline when he's young, and gradually self-discipline as he grows. I see that man now, but you aren't going to become the best version of yourself by accident. No one does. I needed correction when I was your age. Your teacher did, Father did, everyone does. The few who don't seem to have their own things to learn, who seem to do it all right, they need to learn things like how to try things where they might make a mistake. Even we older people still need correction now; that is why we examine our consciences and go to confession.

The other thing I have learned is from a marriage expert: Give at least 5 positive comments for each negative comment, and give the negative comments as complaints about behavior, not attacks on the person, let alone contempt. If a person lacks ability, that is not their fault. If they lack motivation, you'll never criticize that into them, at least never in a way you'd want to do it.

As for the bed-wetting, that is an issue that needs to be dealt with, but I would frame it as a problem you'll help him with, that you will figure out how to deal with together. It happens, it is no sin, it is nothing to be ashamed of. With everything, you're there on his side: Not a critic, but a coach, and one who will not rest until he realizes his full potential!


I completely agree with EasterJoy's post, as well. :)

The three things you want him to learn are:

"I am lovable."

"I am capable."

"I am responsible."


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