7 Strategies to Increase Self-Esteem in Children
Over the past few years there has been a growing trend in the field of education which recognizes the critical importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). Social and emotional learning focuses upon competencies such as self-awareness and relationship skills which thus allow individuals to respond to challenges in daily life (1). Indeed, when students are rich in areas of SEL, other aspects, such as academic performance, begin to fall into place. That being said, one area of social and emotional development which can massively impact a child’s learning and development in either a negative or positive way is that of self-esteem. Self-esteem is essentially how somebody values one’s self, and how valuable they believe they are to others. It is critically important to all individuals, and particularly so with children. In fact, positive self-esteem could very well be as important to success in school as the mastery of any other individual skills (2). The question which then arises is how do we as educators and parents help to boost a child’s self-esteem? There are a variety of ways to do this, and all children are different so there really is no one set “recipe”. Nevertheless, I have outlined below 7 solid methods to promote and increase the self-esteem of our children every single day.
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” (Mark Twain)
Create a Positive and Caring Environment: All members of the school community want to come to a place where they feel wanted, respected and valued. This is particularly true when we are referring to children with a low sense of self-esteem. They want to feel like school and their classroom are a safe and warm place to go. By maintaining a calm, consistent, kind and welcoming classroom, a teacher can accomplish this goal. By smiling and working through the highs and lows of a typical school day together, a positive and caring environment is established and trust is created.
Genuine Praise: Praise can be a very powerful tool to promote self-esteem in children. It can also work the opposite if it is overused and not genuine. Teachers and parents should take the appropriate opportunities to offer genuine praise to children for tasks they have achieved or goals they have accomplished. It is best to praise the activity and it is essential that the activity or behavior warrants such praise. If it does not, try to help the child understand what they could do to improve upon the activity next time, working together in a caring, supportive and trusting manner. Do not offer false praise as a child will see through that very quickly.
Modelling: If I have said it once I have said it a 1000 times…”You are a model every second of every day!” You may not think your children are watching and learning from you…but they are. It will pay dividends for the self-esteem of your students or children if you are naturally optimistic and positive. If you are always hard on yourself or saying you are not good at certain things, children will learn from that and will soon feel the same way about themselves. Always try to be careful what you say and how you act in front of children as it will always be noticed and internalized.
Let Children Make Choices: Like all of us, children want to be heard and have their ideas respected and valued. Obviously sometimes these ideas are not possible or a tad outlandish, but for us as adults to take the time to listen to a child and actually hear what they have to say will make them feel valued. Also, by having the power to make their own choices and decisions, children will begin to feel capable and confident. This can be a step by step process, but it will work wonders in the long run. When we make all the choices and decisions for children, we are basically telling them they are helpless without us. As we slowly “loosen the strings”, positive self-esteem will follow and flourish.
Encourage and Facilitate Socialization: One of the most difficult things for a child with low self-esteem to do is to socialize with others. They will often prefer to sit outside the group and wander off on their own. By encouraging children to become involved in social activities or group work we can begin to help them bolster their self-esteem through social interaction. Of course who the child is teamed up with is quite important as it should be with children who are confident themselves, yet empathetic at the same time. Partners need to be children who will encourage the child with low self-esteem to grow. This encouragement and the natural process of socialization will once again pay benefits for the growth of positive self-esteem.
Encourage Leadership Opportunities: There may be no better way to increase the self-esteem of children then to provide genuine leadership opportunities for them. The possibilities for leadership are virtually endless. It could be all the way from camps, to being the student who has special key tasks that are assigned to them each day to complete. As a Principal I allow and encourage some of my students who have low self-esteem to make announcements in the morning over the P.A. system. Their face lights up for the rest of the day. They thrive on this feeling of importance and begin to see the value in themselves. I cannot overestimate the importance of building and encouraging leadership opportunities for children with low self esteem.
Utilize School District/Community Resources: There are many resources which are available for children with low self-esteem in the school district and in the community. If parents and the school have exhausted all their strategies and distinct improvements are not noted…it is time to get further assistance. Your school principal can and will be happy to help you with this. If low self-esteem is not treated early it will tend to only grow and potentially worsen as a child ages. It is best to work together to find strategies which are most applicable and useful for individual children.
Throughout my career I have found the aforementioned to be the most useful and successful strategies to increase and improve self-esteem in children. I have seen them work wonders in my professional and personal life. Obviously, different strategies will work better than others…depending upon the child. The trick is to be kind, patient and consistent and find which one works the best. Also, it is a very good idea for educators and parents to identify and focus upon the strengths of children and build upon those strengths. Make sure they know what is so great about them. A little trick I have seen work before is taping positive message sticky notes to a bathroom mirror so the first thing the child sees every morning is something good and positive they have done. It could basically be anything, as long as it is a positive accomplishment and achievement for them. As always, if you have any further strategies or tips to promote self-esteem in children I would love to hear them and share them with my readers and my students!
1. Vanessa Vega. Social and Emotional Learning Research Review. Edutopia. http://www.edutopia.org/sel-research-learning-outcomes
Jenny Jedeikin. University of Phoenix. 5 ways teachers can build self-esteem in kids. http://www.phoenix.edu/forward/perspectives/2013/06/5-ways-teachers-can-build-self-esteem-in-kids.html
David Coleman. Ten Tips to boost your child’s self-esteem. http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/health/ten-tips-to-boost-your-childs-selfesteem-29232101.html