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Self Esteem and Learning

Have you ever thought about the mindset needed to be a successful learner? Carol Dweck, who won the Yidan prize for her educational research on growth mindsets and how children think about learning and it’s impact on academic success has learned through her research that “the most motivated and resilient students are the ones who believe that their abilities can be developed through their effort and learning.” (Stanford University, 2017.) So what does this mean for parents, caregivers, and teachers who want to provide the best opportunity for their children to grow into successful adults?

Think about your own experiences as a learner. When you are full of self-doubt, or low self-esteem, the ability to persevere, show “grit” and keep trying is tremendously difficult. Low self-esteem can cause a domino-effect and feed our negative self-perceptions. Low self-esteem then begins to spiral out of control, and depression and academic failure can be the result.

“ It usually is not difficult to pick out the ones that have lower self-esteem vs. those with higher self-esteem. The ones that have the lower self-esteem tend to be quiet, withdrawn, sit in the back of the class, and do not readily participate in class activities as those with higher self-esteem (Phillips, Smith, & Modaff , 2001)”

We all have low points in our lives –I certainly can remember a few. So how do we break out of this cycle –and help our children and others we care about to do so? I recently came across a great list, “20 Tips to Promote Positive Self-Esteem,” by Richard D. Lavoie. ( First and foremost, you need to know the child – understand their unique strengths, needs, interests and skills, focus on these and celebrate the successes when they come. On the flip side, however, failure is inevitable, and it is how we learn. We all need time to play, experiment, try, fail, and try again. In this process, we develop decision-making and problem-solving skills. Choice, and opportunities to practice decision-making are opportunities for growth, and to build self-esteem.

As a parent, teacher or caregiver, it is essential that you offer unconditional acceptance of your child. Provide opportunity for playing, creating, socializing, and provide opportunities for growth in the areas they show skill or interest. Model and teach them good character, and help them fit in. Through these actions, you will be building their self-esteem, and pave the way for your child to be a successful learner.


20 Tips to Promote Positive Self-Esteem,

Bauman, Shannon A. “The Importance Of Self-Esteem In Learning And Behavior In Children With Exceptionalities And The Role Magic Tricks May Play In Improving Self-Esteem And In Motivating Learning.” University of Central Florida, 2012.

Dweck, Carol S. “Boosting Achievement with Messages that Motivate.” Education Canada, doi:CA01000801.

University, Stanford. “Stanford Psychologist Recognized with $4 Million Prize.” Stanford News, 2017,


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