Building Self-Esteem In Today's Children: How Do We Do It?
Self Esteem In Children
Thomas Carlyle was quoted to have said, “Nothing builds self esteem and self confidence like accomplishment, (year unknown). If one reads the literature, both old and new, he or she will find that most sources will agree that one method in which self esteem is built is through accomplishment. However, gaining self esteem through one’s accomplishment is not the only way for a child to gain self esteem. In fact, many scholars will agree there are various ways in which a child's self esteem develops. Some scholars like Carl Rogers believe that a child builds their self esteem by having an outside source give them positive regard for their achievements. Or another scholar might say a child gains the most self esteem from their interactions and relationships with the parents. Whichever method or combination of methods a person chooses to side with, it is imperative the society takes a look at how to help children build the crucial self esteem. The importance of self esteem leaves scholars trying to find just where the responsibility lies in helping children develop self esteem.
Can The School Environment Help Build Self-Esteem?
One seemingly new approach is that schools should implement programs to help build the students self-esteem. Although there are both critics and followers of this idea, for the sake of discussion let’s look at the supporters of implementing programs in our schools to help build and enhance the students’ self-esteem. I believe implementing a self-esteem boosting program would be of great benefit to the students for three main reasons:
- The first reason being that many children do not get the support they need at home in order to develop a healthy, balanced self-esteem.
- The second reason is that research shows that a teacher’s presence and role in a student’s daily schedule can be a self-esteem booster.
The final reason being that any extra help a student can get to help develop and build their self-esteem is going to be beneficial for them.
Let’s face reality the majority of the students in today's society are not getting their needs met at home like children in past decades. Just in the last twenty years anyone can seen the change in the structure of daily life. For example, when I was younger my dad worked and my mom was home when I got home from school. I had both parents giving me training, giving me support and giving me positive feedback on my actions. Looking at some of the children I currently work with the majority of them do not have a stable environment with adults who can give them that constant, unconditional regard the children need to build their self esteem. In fact, U.S. Census facts from the year 2000 suggested roughly that one in four families in the United States is a single parent household with one or more children under the age of 18. To me that is a disturbing number. No matter how stable the one single parent is, there is no doubt that having some extra support at school to help build a students self esteem sounds like a benefit to me.
How Can Schools Help?
Now let's take a look at how the school and teachers in particular could be a beneficial part of the student developing his or her self esteem. One source stated that a school could widen the biases for which children's self esteem would be allowed to blossom by adding programs that would reflect the student's achievements (White, 1986). This could be done by giving prizes or awards for a variety of achievements: sports, arts, academics and many other areas of education. This author stresses the idea that show how whether through school or parent involvement the children need to be encouraged to be able to reflect on their bases of self esteem and be able to eventually re-evaluate them (White, 1986).
How Teachers Can Help
Another source also stated the teacher’s relationship with the child is a very important part in the child developing self esteem. The teacher’s relationship with the student, according to Dowling and Dauncey in 1984, plays a crucial part in helping the student develop his or her positive self image (Dowling & Dauncey, 1984). There are a few ways that the authors believe a teacher can help build the student’s self esteem. The teacher could make a special effort to consistently pronounce the child’s name correctly. The authors also state the teacher could make an effort to learn about the home environment and the child’s interests outside of school. Furthermore, the authors state that teachers could put photographs on display of people from the child’s ethnic group, which can allow the children to more easily relate in the classroom (Dowling, 1984).
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Criticism Regarding Building Self Esteem In Schools
Many Catholic schools and public schools have some sort of self-esteem building activity. One news article that caught my attention was an article from Fox News regarding a teacher’s self-esteem activity and how the activity could be detrimental to the child’s development instead of being beneficial for their growth. This article in particular describes a teacher who passes around a box with a mirror on the inside. The teacher passes the box around to teach student and asks them, “Who is the most important person in the world?” The students are asked to answer, “Me.”
Critics such as Dr. Charles Elliot and Dr. Laura Smith, co-authors of Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self Esteem Myth, say that these sorts of exercises can actually be dangerous to a child’s development because these activities promote narcissism. The article states that Dr. Elliot and Dr. Smith believe that instead of these sorts of activities, it is healthier that the children learn delayed gratification and frustration tolerance (Donaldson-Evans, 2002). Dr. Smith states, “You don’t get self-esteem by saying, ‘aren’t I wonderful,’ you get self-esteem by doing good work, being good to other people and being appreciated for who you are,” (Donaldson-Evans, 2002).
No matter what socioeconomic status or family structure a child has come from I sincerely believe that implementing programs in school to help boost a child’s self-esteem would be beneficial. I do not agree with the fact that exposing children to ways they can increase their self-esteem is detrimental. From the research I have reached the conclusion the self-esteem activity’s should focus more on strategies for developing self-esteem building through helping the child develop their identity, their strengths and acknowledging their weaknesses.
Some sources say self-talk, such as, “I am a good person,” or “I am just as beautiful as everyone else,” can lead to developing narcissistic behaviors. I believe self-talk runs the possibility of increasing a child’s risk of developing narcissism but to a certain extent self-talk can be beneficial in building self-esteem. Obviously I do not want children to develop narcissistic tendencies and behaviors from being exposed to the aforementioned ideas, but I feel that in schools we could take a minute to help children who are lacking self-esteem. I believe any extra support would be beneficial for a child who may need help in honing the necessary life skills to develop and maintain a healthy self-esteem.
Donaldson-Evans, Catherine (2002). School Self Esteem Programs Get Mixed Grades. Fox News Article, March 15, 2002.
Dowling, M. & Dauncey, E. (1984) Teaching 3–9 year-olds: theory into practice (London, Ward Lock).
White, Patricia (1986). Self-respect, Self-Esteem, and the School: A Democratic Perspective on Authority