Posted in Social Skills

Increase the self-confidence of children with learning difficulties

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

  7. 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.
  8. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


Posted in Social Skills

How Can I Help My Kids Develop Better Social Skills?

Today, I wanted to share with you a great article I found on LifeHacker which talks about how you can help your kids develop better social skills:

“… Your children’s social development will be a critical part of their success and happiness as they get older—even more important than their academic skills or intelligence. (Also, no one wants to be that parent who’s raised “Mean Girls”-like bullies.) You have a chance now to greatly influence your kids’ social intelligence and teach them things even we awkward adults are still perfecting, like how to build friendships and deal with rejection. They’re important lessons we all keep learning, and the sooner we start, the better.

The Social Skills All Kids Need to Learn

It seems like some kids (or people of any age) are more naturally socially adept than others—you know, the kind of people others gravitate to and for whom making friends comes easily. Don’t worry if your children don’t fit that mold or aren’t winning any popularity contests. Like any other skill, social skills can be learned, and, besides that, “being social” or outgoing isn’t the end goal in itself.

What is important, however, is that kids are able to form meaningful bonds with others, can empathize and interact with others appropriately, and have the skills to adapt in uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, as the University of Memphis points out:

Many students do not know how to handle interpersonal social situations that involve following directions, holding a proper conversation, listening, giving compliments, proper behavior during transition times, teasing, bullying, or just “hanging out” with friends.

Those are basic skills we want all kids to be able to have. Depending on your children’s ages, they might also need more specific social skills.

Skills for Preschool and Elementary School Kids

Vanderbilt University found the top 10 social skills kids need to succeed in school, based on surveys of 8,000 elementary teachers and two decades of classroom research, are:

  • Listen to others
  • Follow the steps
  • Follow the rules
  • Ignore distractions
  • Ask for help
  • Take turns when you talk
  • Get along with others
  • Stay calm with others
  • Be responsible for your behavior
  • Do nice things for others

These might seem like social skills promoted just to turn out “nice girls and boys” who earn the “gets along with others” check on their report cards, but they’re fundamental behaviors that help kids succeed (not just survive) in a world that emphasizes social norms. The goal isn’t just to make them cooperative, but to hone their social GPS so they can both advocate for themselves and care for others. (Heck, we probably all know a few adults who could stand to learn many of these skills too.)

Social Skills for Pre-Teens and Teens

Older kids, in middle school and high school, have more complex social skills to learn, thanks to growing peer pressure and that simply awkward period called adolescence. It’s a time when they’re becoming more independent, but everyone’s forming cliques; when they’re making big decisions about who they are and what they want to be, but also might start to care a bit too much about what others think.

During those rocky years, adolescents can learn to be more emotionally intelligent, author James Windell says, if they learn to:

  • Set personal goals
  • Identify and change self-defeating behaviors
  • Be assertive about his or her needs
  • Have feelings for others
  • Handle anger constructively
  • Resolve conflicts peacefully

It’s easy to say a toddler should learn how to follow directions or a young adult should know how to be assertive; it’s another to know how to best help them do that. So let’s look at a few strategies.

Model Social Skills

The first place we learn social skills, of course, is at home, and what we do as parents is more important than what we say. As All I Really Needed to Learn in Kindergarten author Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Modeling positive social skills includes showing confidence ourselves when we relate to others, being friendly to strangers, offering to help others, and also treating our kids with respect (no matter how much they might be pulling at our last straw). Dr. Laura Markham writes on Aha! Parenting:

Teach your child that people are important. All parents have to choose their battles, so put up with messiness and dawdling if you must, but teach your child consideration for others. Model it for him early on, praise it, help him brainstorm to solve peer problems, and don’t let your child intentionally or unintentionally disrespect another person. It you can’t confront it as it happens without embarrassing your child, be sure to talk about it later. As kids get older, you may need to be very explicit about insisting that they acknowledge adults in their presence, as well as other kids. Often preteens and young adolescents need to be reminded of this, and to be given coaching on how to handle interactions that feel awkward to them.

The funny thing about being a parent is it forces you out of your shell and can help you become a better person through analyzing your own behaviors and attitudes. In a great article summarizing research on children’s social skills, Auburn University professors Jacquelyn Mize and Ellen Abell write:

Parents of these socially competent children endorse interpretations of social events that encourage resilient, constructive attitudes (Mize, Pettit, Lindsey, & Laird, 1993). Rather than making a statement such as, “That’s a really mean kid!” they may say something like, “Gosh, maybe he’s having a hard day.” They make constructive attributions such as, “Sometimes kids just want to play by themselves,” rather than expressing a sentiment like, ‘They’re not very nice if they won’t let you play.” These parents avoid defeatist comments such as “Maybe they don’t like you,” and offer instead suggestions like, “Maybe they don’t want to play that, but there might be something else they think is fun.” Such positive, constructive statements encourage children to take an optimistic view of others and themselves as play partners. They reflect an upbeat, resilient attitude toward social setbacks and the belief that social situations can be improved with effort and positive behavior.

Don’t Label Shy Kids

If your kids are naturally shy or feel insecure, try not to label them as such or try to force them out of their shyness. Instead, if your child is socially anxious, Dr. Markham recommends empathy and a problem-solving approach:

Don’t label your child as shy. Instead, acknowledge his feelings and point out that he can overcome his fears. For instance, “Sometimes it takes you awhile to warm up in a new situation. Remember Billy’s birthday party, how you held my hand all through the games? But by the end, you were having lots of fun with the other kids.”

Teach your child effective strategies for dealing with shyness. The general rule of thumb is to accept the nervousness that comes up as a part of normal life that affects most people, reassure yourself that you’re ok anyway, and focus on others rather than yourself. For instance, remind your child that she doesn’t have to be interesting, just interested, and teach her to ask other kids questions and listen to their answers. Brainstorm with her how she might handle a situation that makes her nervous.

Another reason not to label young people as shy is it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was told I was shy as a child, when really I think I was just naturally quiet and introverted. Having that label, though, led to me feeling tense and anxious during social situations—true shyness, which often starts out as a reinforced habit.

Give Plenty of Opportunities to Practice Social Behaviors

Kids learn social skills first from you, but then to a large degree from their peers. The more chances kids have to interact with others, the better.

That means supporting and encouraging kids’ friendships—even if it means you become Dad Taxi Service or have to spend playdate time, as Louis CK laments, with kids and parents you couldn’t care less about.

Kids also will learn crucial skills from simply playing with you. According to Dr. Mize and Dr. Abell, the research suggests that children whose parents frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along better with their peers. It’s especially true if you play with them on their level, following their lead and in a “peer-like” way:

Children benefit from this type of play for several reasons. From balanced, responsive play with a parent, children may learn many of the skills commonly displayed by the socially competent preschoolers described earlier. In addition, when parents are responsive to children’s play ideas, children may come to feel that they are good, effective play partners and thus are eager to play with peers. Finally, fun, balanced parent-child play may instill that positive outlook toward others that makes children look forward to play opportunities with people outside the family.

Parenting Science has a few social skill activities you can do with your kids (school-aged and teens) based on research—and they’re actually fun games like charades.


All that said, chances are your kids are learning positive social skills the way most of us do, simply as we go along and through trial and error. Don’t worry or try to intervene too much unless there are serious signs of social trouble (for example, if your kid’s teacher warns of discipline problems). Most kids are insensitive (or even unkind) or socially clumsy sometimes.

Here are some signs that your child might need more social coaching(from you and/or teachers):

  • Lacks at least one or two close mutual friends
  • Has trouble losing or winning gracefully
  • Doesn’t show empathy when others are hurt or rejected
  • Acts bossy or insists on own way a lot
  • Can’t seem to start or maintain a conversation
  • Uses a louder voice than most children
  • Seems constantly ignored or victimized by other children or constantly teases or annoys other children

In those cases, you’ll want to take a more active approach to helping your kids with their “interpersonal skills.” Otherwise, just keep playing with your kids, being a model of social grace, and helping them build their relationships.