4 Simple Ways to Increase Self-Esteem in Students with Learning Differences

No one likes to fail. But kids with learning differences feel like they’re failing a lot. They always feel like they’re running to catch up with their same-aged peers. Over time, they’re self-esteem sinks lower and lower.

self-esteem learning differences

I’m not proud to admit it, but I’m guilty of contributing to this feeling of failure with our youngest son. His disability is invisible. It’s hard to remember to keep my expectations appropriate. I’m often frustrated when I have to explain something again or when he needs yet another reminder.

Kids with learning differences are painfully aware of the gap between them and their peers. They may struggle socially as a well as academically. Most school environments are not set up to foster success in our kids.

As parents, it’s hard to watch our kids struggle with shame and low self-esteem. We want them to walk with their heads held high and know they can contribute to the world.

Keep these four tips in mind when parenting your child with learning differences.

Focus on Strengths.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is not my natural tendency. This is also not where the school system focuses. If a student is struggling, they get extra time and services in the weak area. Imagine if we made rabbits spend more time in water because they struggle with swimming? Of course not! What if we let our kids put their extra energy into their area of strength? Research shows engagement, productivity, and self-esteem rises. [1] I encourage parents to read Strengths-Based Parenting for compelling stories of what is possible when we focus on strengths.

Understand Behavior is Related to Brain Function.

We’re tempted to see misbehavior as controlling, manipulative, or disrespectful. Children who misbehave are sometimes labelled as “bad” or “defiant.” I always do better with kids when I see behavior as a can’t instead of a won’t. This causes me to look for a collaborative solution instead of a punishment.

Set Students Up for Success.

Look for ways to create an environment where your student will thrive. This might include good brain food, essential oils that increase focus and decrease anxiety, sensory breaks, and visual reminders.

Redefine Success.

Society tells us that independence is success. May I suggest interdependence is healthier? We are meant to be in relationships and feel secure in the fact that someone has our backs. The key is that our students need to be able to ask for help in respectful and appropriate ways. Not that they never need help. Our job is to have their backs.

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