So when my oldest daughter was very young, I told her often how beautiful she was, inside and out, how smart she was, how this she was, how that she was, until I could come up with no more adjectives to accurately describe just how awesome I thought she was. I just kept repeating my compliments over and over and...
Then she went to kindergarten and discovered that other people didn't think she was as amazing as her mommy thought she was. As she told me decades later, she was "shocked" by how differently she was treated at school. And she wished I had never built her up to the point that she was let down so hard, she had to reconstruct her whole image of herself.
The reason I think I went so overboard was because my mother never complimented me. And my father didn't help my self image, because he tipped the scales so far into the opposite direction that I grew up believing I was stupid and ugly (children tend to pay more attention to negative input).
When I asked my mother years later why she never complimented me, she said it was because she didn't want me to get a big head. "You succeeded," I told her, "because now I feel like Beetlejuice at the end of the movie when the Indian sprinkled magic dust on his head and it shrunk to the size of an apple."
So does that mean we should endlessly compliment our children? No. We don't want cocky, conceited brats who think the world revolves around them. We want children who care, not only about themselves, but about others as well, children who are self-aware, but children who are also other-aware.
So what exactly is healthy self-esteem? When your child feels confident enough to speak in public without fear of getting pummeled, she has healthy self esteem. When your child can walk up to another child and offer to be a friend, he has healthy self esteem. When your child is able to express herself, she has healthy self esteem. If your child cares enough about himself to stay away from drugs and alcohol, or to engage in sex too young...well, you get the picture.
Years ago, in an attempt to raise my own self-esteem, I read numerous books on the subject and eventually developed a program to enable parents and teachers to work with their children in order to form healthy self esteem. I placed the program on Associated Content and I provide a link below.
Will this program guarantee that your child will grow up with healthy self esteem? No. You can guide your children to travel one path, but if the other parent insists on pushing them off that path by bashing, belittling, and degrading them, the best you can do is gently guide them back to the path of healthy self esteem and embrace them with warm hugs.