Self esteem should be a by-product of actually achieving something. Self esteem is not a viable goal by itself. Indeed, I don't see how you can inculculate self esteem as an end in itself.
Andrew Lam of New American Media and a chronicler of the Vietnamese diaspora reports that American kids have high self esteem, but lousy achievement in math, whereas Asian kids have modest self esteem, but much higher actual achievement in math. This finding is fairly well known to people in the education racket. Lam also reports a finding I had not seen, a new study by Jean Twenge at San Diego State. A quarter century ago, at the beginning of the self esteem fashion in American schools, a third of American college students had above average scores on a narcissism index. Today, two thirds of American college students have above-average narcissism scores.
If kids think that they cannot achieve anything, then they are less likely to. The cure, though, is not to tell them that they are already great the way they are. The cure to is to help them actually achieve something worthwhile. As a friend put it, "school should teach kids; let the little buggers look after their own self esteem."