Encouraging a child with low self-esteem


By Beth Pinyerd

Parents and teachers join hand-in-hand at the beginning of the school year to encourage students to do their individual bests in learning. The very truth of life is that each child is a gift from God.
We see this reflected in Psalm 139:14, which says, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well.”
As a teacher, I have tried to encourage the students who are displaying signs of low self-esteem. It is a calling as a teacher for me to encourage those children who struggle with low self- esteem.
As a child, I was very shy and fearful of new situations, especially school. I had trouble understanding and learning new concepts. Reflection upon my early childhood years was a blur. I had a desire to learn and would work so hard on homework in order to do my best, but, because of shyness, I had trouble focusing and was not willing to try something new or to even take risks because of fear of the future.
When I reached fourth grade, my teacher took the “bull by the horns” in spending time with me during class and after school in having me work through assignments, one step at a time. She and my parents worked so closely together that year in building my belief that I could work hard, persevere and meet the academics and the challenges of fourth grade.
As a team, they encouraged and nurtured my self-esteem through a step-by-step process of support. They pointed out first what I did well, and had me work and improve on areas I didn’t do well.
At school and home, instructional help was adapted within my subjects so I felt and experienced small steps of success, which built my confidence that I could learn. Addressing my learning difficulties head on, being honest with me and spending time in helping me was the best prescription to help me with self-esteem.
For this new school year, how can we as teachers and parents help a child with low self-esteem?
1) Engage in getting to know the child. Try to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Praise the child but let your praise be directed at their work and small step accomplishments. Show them their tangible improvements in reading, math, spelling, etc. For example, show a child’s handwriting to him or her at the beginning of the year and how they have improved over several weeks. Simple happy face stickers or drawing happy faces, a pat on the back, a wink of the eye, a smile or a note can encourage a child’s life more than we know.
Sharing those good works that a child has done with the rest of the class encourages a child with low self esteem to gain confidence, to shine and to feel a part of a class family.
2) Assigning classroom jobs that you know a child can do well helps them to feel important and to build their confidence. At home, assigning chores that a parent knows a child can do well according to their age and strengths can encourage a child’s self-esteem.
3) When my own child was struggling with learning to read, his second-grade teacher invited him into her room early each morning to talk about his interests. He was intrigued by squids at that age. We lived near the Alabama coast. She made it her mission to find all the material she could on squids. This teacher would adapt his reading lesson around squids. His tangible reading progress was very good.
4) We all have a need to belong and to not be left out. A child with low self-esteem will feel left out and isolated. A wise teacher arranges activities which include all students. Encourage friendly, loving students to include a child who seems to be alone in their play. Young children are so sensitive to the needs of their friends.
It is my heartfelt hope as I have shared that this article helps a family and teacher who too needs to understand the needs of a child with low self-esteem and to embark on a good year in school.
Pinyerd has taught young children in the early childhood classroom for 34 years, as well as outreaching to the elderly in intergenerational settings. She has taught and outreached in the schools in Opelika and Baldwin County. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education as well as a bachelor’s degree in family and child development both from Auburn University. Her husband is the late Carl Pinyerd, and she has one son, Gus Pinyerd, who has taught her so much about learning. Classroom Observer is here to serve the community in sharing the wonderful teaching programs in our local public schools, private schools and homeschools. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth and families. Classroom Observer welcomes educational news, school news, pictures and events by e-mailing her at donnapinyerd@charter.net


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