Updated: Apr 14, 2021
"The people who helped me the most were the ones who told me 'what is right with you is more powerful than anything that is wrong with you'"
- words of a looked after child
When children feel good about themselves they are likely to achieve more. High self-esteem encourages children to more willingly try new things and feel proud of themselves for what they achieve. Children with higher self-esteem are also better equipped to deal with it when they make a mistake and are more likely to to keep trying until they succeed. This means that children with high self-esteem achieve more in school and find it easier to make friendships.
Low self-esteem may cause children to have feelings of frustration and anxiety. They may feel reluctant to work and participate in learning for fear of failure. Children with low self-esteem often have a more difficult time making and keeping friendships or may find themselves being treated poorly or even bullied as a result of being unable to stand up for themselves. Low self-esteem may also be reason for a child to be withdrawn with others or to give into pressure to do things they don't want to.
Practical Ways to Build Positive Self-Esteem in the Classroom
Authentic self-esteem comes from people recognising children's accomplishments and from children being able to identify, understand and make use of their own strengths. However this does not mean giving children praise for every tiny thing they do or praising them and telling them they've done a great job if they have not as then praise becomes meaningless and no longer rings true.
It is also important to remember that praise is not only deserved when children achieve excellent outcomes, it is also deserved when they have worked really hard and tried their best towards an outcome.
In contrast it is also important not to over criticise. People sometimes wrongly believe that criticism will help to motivate children into doing better however the likelihood is that the opposite will happen. Children will hear the criticism and believe it of themselves and it will lower their self-esteem.
It is important to never set children up to failure. Differentiation allows for each child in the class to achieve success at work they are able to complete. Expectations of a child should always match their capabilities.
It is Okay To Make Mistakes
Children who are afraid of failure are less likely to try things in the first place. Adults should model making mistakes and more importantly model ways in which to deal with making a mistake. Through this adults can show children that making mistakes is normal and that you can learn from your mistakes to make sure you get it right in the future. Children can begin to see mistakes as a part of learning.
Build on Strengths
It is important to help children to discover their own strengths. When the spotlight shifts from a child's weaknesses to their strengths they begin to realise their own self worth.
One idea that you can try to support this idea is 'strength cards' as a way to help children identify and name their own inner strengths. They can be used to encourage the child themselves to pick out the cards they believe represent their strengths or you can ask other children within the group to pick strengths that they believe represent the child. There is opportunity for various discussions to be begun starting with the strength cards. Alternatively the child can design their own strength card for what they believe their own strength to be.
Giving children a job or responsibility within the classroom can help to give them a sense of worth and improved self-confidence. They are more likely to feel appreciated for their efforts and will show the reliability that has been expected from them.