Self-esteem programs are offered in some schools. Programs encouraging self-esteem began as early as the 1960s. Stanley Coopersmith’s research demonstrated that self-esteem was extremely important to becoming a functional adult. In particular, academic excellence depended on self-esteem. Efforts began being made to encourage self-esteem in children who weren’t being encouraged at home.
Self-esteem programs became even more common beginning in the early 1980s. Many public schools had some form of self-esteem curriculum being offered to children as young as age 5 and continuing until around age 18. The goal of these programs was to combat teenage pregnancy, violence, delinquency, and dropout rates.
Robert Reasoner, author of Building Self-Esteem, was one of the pioneers of this movement. He believes that to successfully build self-esteem, a child should follow a step by step program. His program aims to develop five components within children:
• Establish a sense of security
• Build a sense of identity
• Create a sense of belonging
• Develop a sense of purpose
• Achieve a sense of personal competence
His curriculum was copyrighted in 1982 and was the first to state that kids need a sense of belonging so as not to join gangs and otherwise get into trouble.
In recent years, self-esteem programs have been widely criticized for having the opposite effect from what was intended. Although children with low self-esteem may benefit from this type of program, a child who already feels good about himself may begin to feel too highly about himself. Many experts think that self-esteem programs encourage overly inflated self-esteem and narcissism. So ultimately some children may end up arrogant and egotistical, convinced that they are better than everyone else and that they possess skills that they don’t have.
The concern is that these programs usually focus on building self-esteem, even when no successful task has been completed. In other words, children are learning to think highly of themselves whether or not they accomplish a given task. Very often, children are not challenged and receive an equal amount of praise whether they are in any way successful.
The real problem then isn’t that a child ends up with an inflated ego, but that this inflated ego isn’t based on reality. They overestimate their abilities and end up shocked when they realize they never had the talent or skills they thought they did.
A child who underestimates his self-esteem has a different problem. They may believe they can’t accomplish a task that they could accomplish with a little effort and encouragement.
A school that offers self-esteem programs should remain focused on the goal of encouraging healthy self-esteem based on successfully completing a challenge of some sort. Children shouldn’t be encouraged to become egotistical in any way, or to give themselves credit when nothing has been accomplished.
Experts disagree with how much a school-based program can help children with low self-esteem, and how much they may harm a child who already has an over-inflated ego.
The real task children need to learn is how to set and achieve realistic goals. Feeling good about themselves will happen naturally when they demonstrate competence and an ability to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves.Self-esteem activities