As a parent or a teacher, you play a leading role in building self-esteem in children with learning difficulties. How can you help him reach his full potential?
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is defined as the awareness of one’s personal worth, that is, of one’s strengths, difficulties and personal limits in different spheres of one’s life (Duclos). It represents a positive value that one attributes to oneself as an individual. It varies according to different factors, including the successes and failures of the child.
Self-esteem and motivation
Therefore, a child with learning difficulties is likely to have his self-esteem severely undermined by some difficult school challenges. As a result, school performance influences a student’s self-esteem. Thus, it often happens that the school motivation of the student in difficulty is shaken because he is confronted with his daily deficiencies in the classroom.
In order to increase the child’s academic motivation and self-esteem, it is important that the child be able to perceive his or her strengths in school in order to seriously engage in school tasks and persevere in learning. despite his difficulties.
Moreover, it is through the interaction with its environment (teachers, peers and parents) that the child becomes aware of his / her personal value, hence the importance of working on your child’s relationship with you and his / her teacher. . In this sense, the quality of the parent-child relationship has a direct impact on self-esteem, as children who receive little attention from their parents often have low self-esteem.
To increase your child’s self-esteem, here are some helpful strategies.
Strategies to increase the child’s self-esteem at home
- Demonstrate your unconditional love and meet his needs with consistency. Be available and reliable every day. Make promises and commitments that you can keep. Better to say “no” and change your mind than the opposite. In addition, be very vigilant when criticizing your child. Negative connotations (hyperactive, lost, irritating) stigmatize the child and undermine the construction of his identity.
- Have realistic expectations of him and make sure he sets goals for himself. Make sure his expectations are not only realistic, but tailored to his abilities. In addition, your child should be valued for their progress in school and the effort they provide rather than their academic performance.
- Give him proportionate responsibilities at home: Offer your child tasks to promote his sense of competence. It is essential to give him responsibilities according to his age. Also, make sure that he understands what he needs to do by accompanying him for the first time so that he can achieve success. Tasks like taking care of the plants and feeding the animals offer the opportunity for the children to see that they are indispensable at home.
- Provide a reassuring home setting: Clear and understood rules and boundaries are essential to provide a safe living environment. A known schedule and a stable daily routine are essential to avoid stress in the child.
- Promote its autonomy: avoid overprotecting your child. Let him take initiatives and risks and explore his environment so that he learns. In this way, he will gain confidence in his own ability to assess situations.
- Focus on his strengths rather than difficulties. Highlight what your child does well at home rather than what he not doing as well.Value your child’s efforts and especially his non-school-related skills, such as artistic or manual skills.
Highlight his successes and past successes in reactivating his sense of competence.
- Find a place (bulletin board) where you show off his success or find a box where you keep a record of them. As the saying goes: “Words vanish, writing remains”.
Have fun with your child: it’s important to laugh with him. Use humor to play down mistakes or failures. Help him see the positive in every unsuccessful challenge. Take the time to play with your child or spend quality time with him. The more time you spend with him, the more he will feel that he is important to you.
- Register him for an activity or workshop he likes (karate, visual arts, singing). Your child must develop strengths in areas other than the school sphere. Even if he does not want or tells you that nothing interest him, insist! Expose him gradually to something new, if he feels anxious about joining a new group, help him for example by accompanying him or warning the person in charge.
Strategies to increase the child’s self-esteem at school
- Respect the rhythm of the child. Children with learning difficulties need to be monitored diligently and patiently. We must be sure to respect their abilities. Moreover, for a child to be successful, it is important to have realistic goals with the certainty that they can reach them. In psycho education, we are talking about challenges that are graduated and proportional to the child’s abilities. In class, it is essential to adapt the requirements to the child’s skills.
- Provide tasks that are appropriate to the student’s abilities and strengths. Give the struggling child special responsibilities: take care of the class e-mail, take attendance, etc.
- Emphasize all efforts and consistently offer encouragement. It is essential that the child be recognized for his efforts, however small they may be.
It is very important to value initiatives and creativity. A weaker school child can draw paintings or plans worthy of an architect. Try to make the most out of the strengths of the child with difficulties.
- Increase his sense of belonging to the school by encouraging the child to make friends at school, developing social skills, and having them deal with conflicts themselves. Strongly insist that he participate in extracurricular activities that interest him so that he develops a sense of attachment to his school.
- Plan an intervention plan adapted to the needs of the child. Make sure your child can benefit from additional supports at school if they have a diagnosis of a learning disability, language impairment or mental health. In addition, it is essential that he understands the usefulness of the means contained in the intervention plan. Involve him / her in the development of the means and regularly review the strategies developed with this one.
- Have a caring presence for the child. The teacher’s attitude clearly influences the child’s self-esteem and motivation. Thus, the teacher must be a driver of change and emphasize the quality of the relationship with his students.
- Plan a code with the child if the child is discouraged by a task. It may be interesting to identify a code that the child can use when he feels uncomfortable or wants to ask for help discreetly.
- Establish constant communication with parents. It is important to communicate to parents the good deeds of their child, whether in the diary or by email, so that the child feels recognition for his efforts.
Some activities to increase self-esteem at school
You can give a small box or paper bag to each student that they can personalize. Then, each student will have to write a quality, compliment or positive sentence on a piece of paper for each student in their class. Thereafter, the teacher will accumulate the small pieces of paper of each student and will deposit them in the bags or boxes of each one. It may be appropriate to read the messages to ensure that they are respectful.
- Identify the student who did his best or persevered during the week with a special hat or scarf.
- Celebratory chair! For your student’s birthday, ask him to sit in front of the class and everyone in the class tell him what makes him great and special.
- Self-esteem is defined as the awareness of one’s strengths, difficulties and limitations.
- A student with learning difficulties may have low self-esteem, which reduces motivation.
- Parents can help their child’s self-esteem at home by giving them responsibilities commensurate with their abilities, spending time with them, and maintaining realistic expectations.
- Teachers can also promote the child’s self-esteem, including valuing his efforts and working based on the kid’s pace.
Source used: Duclos, G. (2000). L’estime de soi : un passeport pour la vie, éditions Hôpital Sainte-Justine, Montréal.