Many children struggle with feeling isolated, different. Some experience intense anxiety in school or social situations. An identity of failure and worthlessness may develop if a child doesn't learn to cope with failure, learn from it, and keep on trying.
Elementary age is a crisis time for developing a positive self-image. Mastery is a critical issue because k-6 kids need to build a foundation of academic and social skills to face the next stage of adolescence. When your child is having a problem with his school work or behavior, take action immediately. Avoid labeling him, instead focus on specific behaviors that he needs to learn. When you identify those behaviors, or skills, begin to think creatively and brainstorm ideas to help him learn. Gather information and get support from your spouse and others. Plan a long-term strategy to address the problem, then start with some small steps to help him move forward in learning a new skill.
Clemes & Bean have identifed these four conditions of self-esteem in children.
- A sense of connectiveness
- A sense of uniqueness
- A sense of power
- A sense of models
I highly recommend their work because it is practical and useful. I frequently refer to their now out-of-print book, Self-Esteem: The key to your child's well-being. The mastery tasks of elementary school build the child's sense of power, but what about the other three conditions?
Elementary children build a sense of uniqueness when
- their opinions and feelings are accepted and valued;
- they have opportunities to explore individual interests;
- their unique learning styles and intelligence patterns are valued;
- they have opportunities to use their imagination and express their creativity.
Children build a sense of connectiveness when
- they have a sense of family and cultural heritage;
- they feel connected to their own bodies;
- they have their own special possessions;
- they feel part of a group.
Children build a sense of models when
- they are taught right from wrong;
- they have a broad range of new experiences;
- they have order and structure in their daily lives;
- they learn to set goals and solve problems.