At a Glance
People often use the phrase “self-esteem” when they talk about raising kids. But what exactly is it? And why does it matter so much for children with learning and attention issues?
Your child’s self-esteem is how much she values herself and how important she believes she is in her world. It’s tied to how capable she feels. Positive self-esteem can make a big difference for children with learning and attention issues.
When children value themselves, they’re more likely to stand up for themselves and ask for the help they believe they deserve. When they’re confident and secure about who they are, they’re better able to face and manage their learning challenges.
How High Self-Esteem Helps Kids
When children have high self-esteem they:
Are resilient and can feel proud, even when they make a mistake
Have a sense of control over activities and events in their life
Take responsibility for their actions
Are comfortable and secure in forming relationships
Have the courage to believe in their own values and make good decisions, even in the face of peer pressure
How High Self-Esteem Is Developed
Children develop positive self-esteem by experiencing repeated successes. Past accomplishments show them that they have what it takes to face new challenges. Their success makes them feel good about themselves.
Their success also pleases other people, like their friends and the adults who care about them. This also makes them feel good. Over time, success and the feedback that comes with it help children develop the positive characteristics associated with high self-esteem.
Learning and Attention Issues and Self-Esteem
Children with learning and attention issues often struggle to develop and maintain high self-esteem. It’s not that they never experience success. It’s more that their experiences are inconsistent.
Some schoolwork can seem impossible to do. Sometimes children with learning and attention issues are accepted by their peers. But other times, they’re the target of cruel jokes.
As a result, kids with learning and attention issues can become increasingly uncertain of their own abilities. They might grow unsure of how to react to challenges.
“Building self-esteem is possible. Children can learn to improve how they see and value themselves.”
It doesn’t help that they may not get a lot of positive feedback from adults. For many, the feedback they do get can be mostly negative. In some cases, children get positive feedback that’s not sincere. This can make them mistrust the very adults who are supposed to be helping them. And they can become wary of the children who are supposed to be their “friends.”
The Toll of Low Self-Esteem
Children with low self-esteem may not believe they’re worthy of good treatment. Because they feel this way, they may not ask for help or stand up for themselves. In other words, they don’t develop self-advocacy skills.
Children with low self-esteem may have trouble gaining the confidence they need to face and deal with their learning and attention issues. This is a lack of what’s often referred to as self-awareness.
Low self-esteem is also at the root of other serious challenges because:
Repeated failure can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety and sadness.
Children in this situation often lose interest in learning.
Friendships can suffer as frustrated kids seek negative attention.
Children can become withdrawn or give in to peer pressure.
Many children with low self-esteem develop self-defeating ways to deal with challenges, like quitting, avoidance, silliness and denial.
How Parents Can Help With Self-Esteem
Building self-esteem is possible. Children can learn to improve how they see and value themselves. Being a supportive but realistic parent is key.
Praise your child’s efforts, but don’t lavish praise on everything he does. Children know when they’ve been successful and worked hard—and when they haven’t. Asking teachers to also be supportive but realistic is important, too.
Helping children find friends who accept them for who they are can help them feel valued and supported. Learn more about nurturing your child’s self-esteem. Help your child discover his strengths and help him build upon them. Together you can help your child bring out the best in himself and empower him to master the challenges that come his way.