Building confidence and self-esteem |

Building confidence and self-esteem

Schools have long touted the promotion of self-esteem as a basic strategy to encourage students to develop personal confidence and set long-term goals. Lack of self-esteem has been considered one of the main causes of low achievement, school failure and bad behavior. A three year study by the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem, Personal and Social Responsibility gave the issue respectability during the 1980s and it has retained its importance to this day.What is self-esteem? The people we questioned called it a “feeling of self worth,” “a sense of personal accomplishment,” “expecting to be successful when you learn something new,” “an optimistic view of the world,” “an indefinable feeling that you will be able to climb the next mountain when you face a new challenge.”It may be the look on the toddler’s face when he succeeds in mounting the stairs for the first time or throwing the winning basket.The person with high self-esteem seems happier, more enthusiastic and more positive in his or her view of the world.Is low self-esteem the cause of all our social and educational maladies?”My experience with the things that caused me to have low self-esteem,” said Betty, an adult client of ours, “is what my mother did to me. She made me feel bad about myself. I never did anything right. I think she had the southwestern regional monopoly on guilt! If there was a way of laying a guilt trip on me for failing at something, she could do it! I didn’t find out that I was smart and had any strengths until I became an adult. She can still cut me down when she comes to visit and always has something to criticize me about whenever she can.”Studies have shown that even poor students can be helped to think of themselves as highly as class valedictorians, if they have had a parent or teacher who made them feel good about themselves in spite of their poor performance.Studies have not shown a clear link between low self-esteem and negative behavior to Dr. Nicholas Emler, a social psychologist. He found that a poor self-image was only one factor that contributed to teenage substance abuse, destructive behavior, and school failure.Can teachers and parents contribute to a child’s sense of positive self-esteem? They can if they are aware of the kind of damage their words and actions can cause.Here are a few suggestions:- Kids mirror their feelings about themselves from the way they are viewed by the people around them.- Avoid negative remarks. A child’s work may be poor but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t trying.- Teachers should avoid singling out weaker students. Kids know when they are undervalued. Being reminded that you are an academic failure doesn’t help a child feel good.- Parents can help kids to be realistic about success and failure. No one can always be first, the best, or top in the class. Try to help them separate their schoolwork from their personal sense of self worth. Allow them to fail or not to fail and still feel that its O.K. Let them know that you value them for themselves not for what they can produce academically.For further information contact Helen Ginandes Weiss, M.A, and Martin S. Weiss, M.A., learning consultants, via e-mail at or by writing to P.O. Box 38, Twin Lakes, CO 81251. Call them at (719) 486-5800.

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