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Low Self Esteem

(7 Posts)
steelev48 Wed 08-Jun-11 21:06:40


I need some advice please.

My son has been on Action Plus since 3 years of age. He is now 10 and approaching the end of year 5. He had severe health problems as a young child which delayed his development in all areas. The main areas of need have been with fine and gross motor skill. His main difficulties at the moment are writing (he finds this incredibly difficult, tiring and stressful so has help with recording his work), some memory problems and incredibly low self esteem.

Over the last couple of months, he has gone from being a happy, jokey child to a really negative, miserable one. He feels that he is stupid and rubbish at everything so has stopped trying as he is convinced he will fail so what is the point? His class teacher told me just before half term that he has become lazy and cannot be bothered (her exact words). Unfortunately, she also said the same thing to my son and his self esteem has suffered even more. It is like he has given up.

He has been seen by educational psychologists in the past who have advised the school on ways to improve his self esteem and to make the curriculum more accessible for him. He has an OT programme and is on the waiting list for a new assessment. He has physio too.

I have spoken to the GP about my concerns and have an appointment in a few weeks' time with the Consultant Paediatrician that my son used to see when he was younger.

In the meantime, I am really struggling to motivate my son and to deal with his outbursts every time he is asked to do something that he doesn't want to do or that he is expecting to find difficult. I have also run out of ideas on how to boost his self esteem.

Can anyone please advise.

Thank you.

coff33pot Wed 08-Jun-11 22:57:19

Can the school not broaden on what he is good at? His interests and likes? then make a big thing of it with praise or and acheivment award for perserverance. Could they not just make up one to present to him to help raise him up a bit.

The teacher was stupid to tell your DS that he was lazy that was an awful self opinionated assumption to make given that he is getting help and on action plus and encouragement is a far better course to follow. Stupid person!

I have a son of 5 (suspected AS) and a DD of 10 (NT) my son feels insecure in most suroundings but went through a phase of not doing anything because he cant to it like his sister. It caused no end of meltdowns.

On the other side my DD is extremely bright and had top of the class senario up till she moved up to year 5 where the work is much harder and more demands are made. She was coming home in tears because she was getting things wrong and because she had always found everything easy could not understand that she could get the wrong answer or someone could be better.

Every thing was so tense in the house with two ppl at loggerheads. We had a WII racing game. DS couldnt work it out and DD would not explain how to do it because she would then possibly lose and the only thing she was smarter than (so she perceived) was her brother.

I made her show DS and stood in the room. Then I played and deliberately lost against DS and I laughed. Then against DD and lost and laughed. Then they played each other and I laughed. sounds cruel but I made her laugh at herself. and then DS too. To show them that losing was unimportant. And winning was not such a big deal. And told them it was the taking part that was the hard bit and that was where I was proud of them and gave them a taking part certificate each. We were all in hysterics by the end of the night trying to laugh the funniest laugh. It did relax things a bit.

steelev48 Thu 09-Jun-11 08:28:16

Hi, Thanks for replying. He does have a reward target on his IEP but it is obviously not working. I guess a good place to start would be to have a meeting with his teacher to discuss this ahead of his IEP review which isn't until July.

The scenario you painted sounds familiar as he does have a twin brother in the same year but different class at school who is better at pretty much everything. He won't play games against his twin as he is convinced he will lose.

We do give him praise and rewards but he doesn't believe the things that we are saying and has now started shouting, storming off to his room and bursting into tears several times an evening. This is what I am finding it hardest to cope with.

niminypiminy Thu 09-Jun-11 09:59:14

My DS1 (AS) who's now nearly 8 hade terribly low self esteem at school for ages, would give up on tasks, come home from school and sob that he was useless and worthless, tried not to go into school almost every day etc etc.

But we agreed a programme with school for getting his self esteem up. He was initially be given only tasks he could achieve 100% (and then praised for achieving them) and then tasks he had 90% of achieving (and then praised for achieving them), and so on. A new task was always preceded and followed by a task which used a skill he already had mastered, so that he was always building on success. He also has a 'good news' book, in which the teacher or TA writes down something that he has done well at every single day. I read it to him when he comes home, and he can look back at it as a record of successes. (It is so much easier to remember failure and so demotivating, so having a written record of sucess makes the good stuff concrete and real.)

Gradually my boy is getting to believe that he can do things, and to expect to succeed when he tries something (rather than expecting to fail). And gradually he is becoming more resilient and better able to cope when he doesn't get something right. I feel like together we and the school are building an inner scaffolding for him that will support his sense of his own worth. We'll keep on doing it till the scaffolding really doesn't need to be there any more -- that could be a long time, but it is worth it.

I would say it works best as a partnership between you and school, and that you have to just keep on with the praise and with the tasks set at levels he can achieve. It does take a while and is very frustrating, but it can really work.

IndigoBell Thu 09-Jun-11 10:42:18

Mindset and Unconditional Parenting both talk about how mindless praise, and praising the wrong things, can cause children to stop trying.

I'm not suggesting that is what is happening in your case, but you might find reading the books give you some more ideas about what and how you praise....

Basically Unconditional Parenting suggests you use praise very, very sparingly, and Mindset suggests you only ever praise effort rather than achievement.....

I don't think there are any easy answers to your problems, and I'm not meaning to be simplistic or suggest that there easy answers - just trying to give you some different ways of looking at things......

niminypiminy Thu 09-Jun-11 12:21:42

I think IndigoBell has a good point. It just won't ring true with any child's experience to tell them everything they have done is brilliant. But encouraging praise tells them what they have done well and puts it in the context of what they have achieved (and the effort they have put in) as well as acknowledging what might have gone wrong this time -- eg 'you're doing really well at getting your hands in the right position for catching (let's work on following the ball with our eyes)' or 'you've worked really hard at your handwriting and it's getting so much clearer'. Praise needs to be specific and realistic for it to be believable.

(I also saw a report of some research (it was on the bbc news web site) about a group of psychologists who'd compared children who were praised by being told they were good at something, and those who were praised by being told they had worked hard at something. The upshot was the latter group tried much harder at the task and performed better at it.)

steelev48 Thu 09-Jun-11 22:05:54

Thank you very much for the replies.

We don't praise everything but paying more attention to the amount of effort put in makes good sense.

I spoke to my son's teacher today about his low self esteem and asked for a review of how he is rewarded at school. She showed me his personal reward chart which is empty and his friend's reward chart which is almost full. She commented that he is supposed to come to her when he feels he has done one of the 4 specific tasks well but hasn't done so for some time! I pointed out that he thinks he is doing badly at everything as his self esteem is so low (hence the chart). She agreed to let him know when he has done something well/tried really hard and give him a sticker rather than waiting for him to go to her. When a row is full he will be allowed to choose from a selection of rewards. I have also asked her to discuss my concerns with the SENCO and requested a referral to an educational psychologist for further advice.

I may also suggest that he be given relatively easy tasks and gradually make them more difficult as that sounds like something which might work for him. Thanks for that niminypiminy.

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