Fostering a Healthy Sense of Self

We’ve covered a lot in this module, so let’s take a moment to sum up.

Research shows that:

  • A healthy sense of self is fundamental to child development and important for learning
  • Like adults, young children process experiences at both a conscious and an unconscious level
  • Children rely on their self-esteem to form social groups and friendships
  • Positive self-esteem can provide an emotional buffer against everyday setbacks and difficulties
  • Stereotypes, biases and other negative influences can harm a child’s sense of self and disrupt academic learning

There are things parents and teachers can do to help children develop a healthy sense of self. They can:

  • Provide positive role models that children can identify with, especially in school
  • Praise children for the effort they put in, not their personal ability
  • Help children understand that difficulty is not failure, but a normal part of learning
  • Examine the stereotypes that we all hold and work to counter them
  • Give all children the opportunity to do math activities – fathers helping their daughters with these activities is a particularly powerful way to counter STEM stereotypes
  • Nurture supportive family and communities so that children feel safe, included, and valued

When we do these things, we fill a child’s backpack so that they are resilient and ready for the many life adventures that await.

  • Academic sense of self
    how a person thinks of themself as a student
    the belief that some people or ideas are better than others, usually resulting in unfair treatment
    Black, Indigenous, people of color
    thoughts or feelings that we are aware of
    Growth mindset
    the belief that, with effort, you can learn and achieve new things.
    In-group preference
    the tendency to form close relationships with others in a person’s same groups
    a cluster of characteristics, such as feeling confident, having pride in oneself, and a sense of self-worth
    Sense of self
    how a person thinks and feels about their self
    a widespread belief that a person must have a trait because they belong to a particular group
    thoughts or feelings that we are unaware of