Your 4R Response Plan:

Addressing Low Self-Esteem

Follow the 4R Response Method to create your custom plan that will help you to foster healthier self-esteem. 

How to Use This Page

Watch this video to learn how to make the most of this resource

Download Your 4R Response Plan

Click here or on the graphic below to download the 4R Response Plan template that you’ll complete for dealing with schoolwork issues in your home. 

Watch the videos below for ideas about what to consider at each step. You’ll also see a summary of my suggestions below the video. 

Questions? Come to the 4R Response Method Practice Sessions or fill out this form to ask questions! (I’ll answer forms in the live practice session and email the recording to you.)


REDUCE YOUR YUCK About Your Child's Low Self-Esteem

Seeing the symptoms of low self-esteem can easily put us into Yuck. But it’s important to reduce the Yuck (and reduce our perception of a threat) so we can give them what they need. 

Here are some examples of how you can reduce your Yuck by reducing the threat.

The behavior is not a threat because

  • The symptoms that worry you are simply symptoms that their Yuck is bigger than their coping skills. The behaviors show that they’re turning that Yuck in. 
  • We can address reducing their Yuck and teaching coping skills, and we’ll be more effective when we know we can handle these symptoms without getting sucked into them. 

You can handle it because

  • One action that is in your control is to be with them — without trying to make everything better. (You can take that pressure off of yourself!)
  • Your simple presence shows them that they matter. 

Instead of believing this behavior is bad and using willpower to address the situation, use your Avatar to think about how you want to handle it! 


RESPOND EFFECTIVELY To Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem

Now we’ll build your response when addressing symptoms of low self-esteem.

Responding effectively is when a child is not feeling good about themselves is about doing LESS — less fixing, solving, and even less talking.  

First, you want to make sure you have a when-then statement to address your own Yuck. Obviously this statement is personal to you.

When creating a when-then statement for responding to your child, you might want to

  • see them by listening to what their perspective is without trying to change it. This shows them that their point of view matters.
  • teach them that they are worthy of respect by being with them — NOT trying to talk them out of their feelings (which would make them feel more alone and misunderstood and confused).

If they’re too deep in Yuck, just let them know that while you may not be able to fix their situation, you’re there for them.

  • Sometimes this will make them feel safe enough to release their Yuck. 
  • Even if it doesn’t, you’ve shown them that you can handle them and their feelings, and that can help them start to see themselves differently.



– Example: When-then statements to support a child with low self-esteem

Say this, not that when your child is hesitant to do something


Identify ROADBLOCKS for Children With Low Self-Esteem

Let’s identify WHY your child’s self-esteem may not be as positive as it could be

First, it’s important to know the 2 components of healthy self-esteem:
~a genuine belief that we are worthy of acceptance and love as we are
~a genuine belief in our own capability 

Our expectations may be roadblocks to healthy self-esteem:

  • When our expectations are not clear and consistent, children do not feel capable
  • When our expectations are not delivered with respect, they do not feel they are worthy of respect

Often children with low self-esteem have emotional Yuck 

  • They have more withdrawals than deposits in their “Significance” account. They feel disrespected misunderstood, or they feel as if no one is on their side.
  • They have more withdrawals than deposits in their “Capability” account. There are areas of their life where they don’t feel competent, and they may not trust themselves. 

Often children with low self-esteem have not mastered certain skills 

  • They may struggle with executive functioning skills — skills that allow them to act responsible and mature (like emotional regulation, the ability to monitor and correct their behavior, etc.) 
  • They may not have mastered skills to solve problems. 

      Remember to choose ONE roadblock that you have the desire and energy to tackle now. You can come back to the others later!

      Build Your ROUTINES to Foster Healthier Self-Esteem

      )Now we’ll identify proactive ROUTINE (that you can take action on!) that will start to foster healtheir self-esteem

      Consider these routines to address the roadblock you choose:

      Expectations-based Routines

      • ROADBLOCK: Setting unrealistic expectations that lead to children feeling incapable or disrespected
        Routine: Create a realistic boundary.

      Yuck-based Routines

      • ROADBLOCK: They feel disrespected, misunderstood, or as if no one is on their side
        ROUTINE: Deposit into their “Significance” account
      • ROADBLOCK: They don’t feel competent
        ROUTINE: Deposit into their “Capability” account

      Skill-based Routines

      • I recommend working on emotional Yuck before trying to teach skills. (If you start to teach them skills before they feel a little better about themselves and they don’t learn the skills quickly, they might feel even worse.)
      • If you need to work on a behavior before they’re feeling more confident about themselves, use the ROUTINE of Joint Problem Solving.
        This routine naturally includes deposits into the Significance, Control, and Capability accounts. 


      Sample Completed 4R Response Plans for Addressing Low Self-Esteem

      Want some examples? Check out these completed plans:


      Extra Resources

      If you’ve got your plan, but want to learn even more strategies for what causes this behavior, and how to deal with it, I’ve included videos and podcast episodes for you below:

      Video: How to Really Listen to Your Kids So They Behave and Feel Better

      Video: Healthy Self-Esteem Does Not Come from Compliments or Praise

      Podcast: How to Raise Children With Healthy Self-Esteem

      Podcast: When Children Say Mean Things About Themselves


      Past Questions from Other Parents

      Want to see what other parents have already asked about fostering healthy self-esteem? I’ve linked to some past questions and answers below.