Boosting self-esteem
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By Phoebe Doyleeducational writer

original article published 16 September 2011

Low self-esteem can have a hugely negative impact on a child’s ability to learn as well as on their overall well-being.

Worried boy

Self-esteem is about how good a person feels about themselves. With young children in particular, self-esteem depends largely upon how others speak and react to the child. In order for children to learn, they need to believe they are capable of doing so. Self-esteem is an important component to almost everything children do. Not only will it help with academic performance, it supports social skills and makes it easier for children to have and keep friends.

Symptoms of low self-esteem

Michelle Hampson, Educational Psychologist from The Ed Psych Practice tells us how self-esteem isn’t necessarily the same throughout all aspects of the child’s life: ‘Psychologists have emphasised that children can have different levels of self-esteem in different areas. For example, a child’s self-esteem with regard to sports could be high (“I’m good at running”) but their social self-esteem may be lower (“other children don’t like me”). All of these areas taken together can affect a child’s global self-esteem (overall self-evaluation) depending partly on the level of importance they place on each area.’

To decipher whether a child has low self-esteem, their behaviour needs to be observed over time in a range of situations, and with different peers and adults at their side.

That said, Michelle advises that the following specific behaviours may indicate low self-esteem in young children:
  • Not wanting to try new things and avoiding joining in activities or games
  • Speaking negatively about themselves (“I’m stupid”)
  • Giving up easily or waiting for someone else to take over and do the task for them
  • Misinterpreting what others say and do to fit with their negative view of themselves
  • Relying on others for reassurance rather than positively self-evaluating
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