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For years, we have been aware of the importance of building up and strengthening the self-esteem of our children. With a healthy respect for themselves, children can better handle the ups and downs life will undoubtedly show them. Those who have a high self-esteem can more easily handle conflicts and persevere to find solutions to problems. Children who are less confident about themselves tend to have more self-critical thoughts and feel that they are unable to accomplish things in the face of adversity or challenge.

Academic self-esteem is a child's assessment of his or her own abilities to learn new concepts and test well on them. Children notice the work of their classmates or siblings, and will compare their performance to that of others. If they feel they are not as strong, they begin to doubt their capabilities and intelligence. These feelings of inadequacy tend to snowball, so parents and educators should be aware of the signs children show when they are overly critical of their learning abilities. Behaviors that may indicate low academic self-esteem are:

  • Lack of interest in learning
  • Making negative comments about abilities
  • Choosing material to read that is too difficult
  • Avoidance of answering questions
  • Quietness during lesson participation or cooperative project time
  • Incomplete or missing homework assignments

We can combat low academic self-esteem by providing positive reinforcement, concentrating on children's progress, and showing them strategies to use when they encounter a challenging learning situation. Understanding, assurances, and patience go a long way too. Most of all, be aware of the fact that children's self-esteem is greatly impacted by their performance of learning tasks. Academic self-esteem (whether it be low or high) is yet another facet of reading instruction to which we must give attention.


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