Knowing how to build self-esteem in schildren is an important skill for all parents and teachers. Bolstering self-confidence in students who have learning disabilities (LD) is even more critical.
There are a wide array of parenting, coaching strategies and behaviour management tools to build self-esteem in children. One of the most succesful is 'positive re-enforcement', rewarding good behaviour with treats or simple fun objects i.e. providing rewards for completing quality work and for making wise social choices.
Rather than providing food or other tangible rewards, you will find that social reinforcers and recognition, such as acknowledging effort. Giving a special 'Well Done!' or granting a special privilege, are far more powerful and important to the students than treats.
Try hard to catch your children in the act of being good. If you remember nothing else, remember to try to acknowledge students for good effort, academic progress, and good choices as frequently as you can.
For older children, ones at middle school and high school students, you can tell them a bit more about how their brain works. As kids grow, their brains develop and allow them to understand more complex instruction. This helps them succeed with learning in areas they may have struggled with at a younger age.
Take time to explain the true meaning of "learning disabilities" to prevent kids from thinking of themselves as "dumb" or "stupid." If students with LD think they are stupid, they will invariably act stupidly, because they would rather be seen as "bad" than as "dumb."
Many older children are bright, and have already achieved a reasonable level of education, but they may still have a difficulty with reading. Many of them rely on sight reading and have little or no phonics skills.
Some so-called experts will say that you should give up trying to teach phonics after a certain age. However, phonics is such a useful tool to learn and one that leads to improved self-esteem, that persistance should be maintained.
In addition to teaching phonics to older students, show them how to look for what makes sense, using context and inference clues, which they might not have been able to do when they were younger. A simple, but useful, technique to show children is learning how to use the phonetic pronunciation guide in the dictionary. You will be surprised how many say "Why hasn't anyone shown me this before?"
As you continue to develop as a parent and educator, you will come to realise the great importance of the parent-teacher-student relationship, no matter what the age of the student. When you establish a positive relationship with a child or students, they feel trust and look to you as a source of reassurance and information about themselves and the wider world.
Motivation comes from the perception of the possibility of success. Always, or as often as is possible, let your children and students know they are special to you and that they are loved. Let them know that you recognise, appreciate and celebrate their uniqueness. Slowly but surely they will begin to believe success is possible, maybe for the first time in thier life.
Strategies to Build Self-Esteem
- Provide information about the brain and how students learn.
- Build skills - academic and social.
- Reward effort, performance, and good choices.
- Establish positive, trusting relationships with students.
- Value each student's uniqueness.