Helping Your Young Child Build Self-Esteem


For many children, both with and without learning disabilities (LD), self-esteem is a powerful predictor of success. Social or emotional problems are not the cause but rather the consequence of academic frustration and failure. Not all students with an LD like dyslexia have problems with social competence and self-esteem, but many do. Daily struggles with the challenges posed by a learning disability can erode the enthusiasm and confidence that make learning, at all ages, fun.

Positive Self-Esteem Is a Powerful Thing

Your child’s positive self-esteem is as important to his or her success in school as is the mastery of individual academic skills. And there's no question that doing something well helps a child feel better about themselves, their accomplishments, and their potential to succeed in the future. Learning disabilities, however, often pose formidable hurdles to positive self-esteem, and these in turn contribute to a hard-to-break cycle of self-doubt, frustration, and failure.

The Importance of Social Competence

Self-esteem is shaped by several factors: how well children get along with peers and teachers, how they seem themselves in comparison to their peers, and how well they negotiate relationships with parents and siblings. When a child experiences difficulties in any of these areas — due to the LD — it can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Helping a child to build social competence is a key to helping them become self-reliant and confident. Children who demonstrate this quality seem to know how to move from person to person or group to group. And they’re seemingly more relaxed and at ease regardless of whether they are talking or listening. They also seem to demonstrate traits such as:

  • knowing how to initiate and maintain positive relationships with peers and others;

  • knowing how to interpret social situations and judge how to interact without drawing negative attention to themselves;

  • engaging in interactions without being disruptive or drawing negative attention to themselves;

  • sustaining attention and contributing to conversations; and

  • controlling their impulses and delaying the need to draw attention to themselves, even in well-intended ways.

These are the traits that often pose the greatest challenges to individuals with LD. If your child seems to have trouble in any of these areas, it’s time to take action.

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