Boosting a child’s self esteem holds huge potential in both their educational achievement and well-being. But it can be overdone producing an over inflated image of self held by the child. Adult life could become a minefield when reality bursts the bubble and deflates confidence.
We can all picture the trauma of the timid child perhaps too shy and withdrawn to gain their full potential. The PSHE teacher resources at primary and secondary school are there to help as boosting self esteem has huge benefits to a child’s learning capacity, well being and social skills. But there are some pitfalls to overdoing the effect. Consider the impact to a child or adult who have an inflated opinion of their abilities. Some time in the future they will be tested which could create significant inner conflict as reality sets in.
The realisation that their assumed ability is suspect can be crushing. Like most things in life the greatest benefit comes with moderation. The correct balance of self esteem building activity in the classroom and home can boost learning capacity and enhance the benefit of the school teaching and learning resources. Overdo the emphasis and we risk the child falling flat on their face when they encounter the wide world.
Professor Stephen Dinham, Research Director of the Teaching Learning and Leadership Research programme at the Australian Council for Educational Research, believes students want and need feedback to four questions:
- What can I do
- What can’t I do
- How does my work compare to others
- How can I do better
“Every student needs to feel recognised and cared about. Every student needs to experience success and feel they are progressing in their learning and development. Real achievement, no matter how small, is the best way to engender self –concept and self-esteem,” he said “But we should not shy away from the concept of failure. Having failed then succeeded at something can be a powerful driver for learning and self esteem. If performance flaws are not detected and corrected, these can become ingrained and will become much harder to eradicate in the future.”
Whilst we all like to instil confidence in children being overprotective or overindulgent can have the opposite effect. Artificially boosting a child’s self esteem can be counter productive. “We could do the children no favours and quite possibly we’re setting them up for failure and disappointment” said Professor Dinham.
Ideally our teaching resources need to be balanced, praise where praise is due and correction when we get it wrong. Maybe the greatest lesson is not to forget we all fail occasionally. The worse thing we can do is to gloss over errors thinking it could damage the child’s self esteem, when in reality we are building it.