Developing a strong sense-of-self is a crucial part in strengthening self-esteem. Judging ourselves by character traits that we think we ought to have and not the traits that we posses naturally sets us up for disappointment.
The trick to developing a powerful sense-of-self and self-esteem is by finding out what our “genius” is.
Children and teenagers have a hard time recognizing their “genius” or character traits. Limited vocabulary and cultural stereo-types hinder their ability to find and understand their strengths and realize their full potential.
In essence: they are fish that are comparing themselves with squirrels. They spend the majority of their time trying to climb trees instead of developing their swimming skills.
An example of this would be a student that is upset because they came in 10th in a race during gym. The student now thinks that no one will want to play tag with him at recess because he is not fast enough.
You recognize that this is simply not true. This particular student has played tag everyday at recess without any problems since the beginning of school. The student’s belief in what he “should be” (faster than the other students) has limited his feelings of acceptance and self-worth.
Simply telling the student not to worry about the race during gym will fall on deaf ears. You understand that the race is only a race. You see that the other students are not leaving him out. Even after you try to explain these things, the student still feels like a failure. Their feeling of defeat has overtaken his rational thinking. No amount of explanation will convince them otherwise.
So what do you do?
In order to overcome their sense of defeat, the student needs to develop their sense of accomplishment. By accomplishment, I do not mean winning races or competitions. I am referring to whatever it is that student can do well.
The best place to start when trying to find accomplishments is by identifying character traits and collecting “evidence” of that trait.
Character Trait: Caring
Evidence: The student is very helpful. The student likes to pass out papers in class. The student always makes new students in the school feel welcome and encourages other students during group work.
Rather than focusing on the “I can’t” we need to help children focus on the “I can”.
Scholastic has a wonderful Character Trait download for free on their website:
There are many different things you can do with this list of character traits to help children identify what makes them great.
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Have the student highlight and look up words that are unfamiliar.
- Have the students highlight the words (or top 5, top 10, etc) that describe them and create a wordle with the words that were selected.
- Have the students create a web by using a character trait from the sheet and evidence of the trait. For those of you that may not be familiar with a web, draw a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper and write the character trait inside. Write evidence of the trait going around the circle. Draw circles around each example of evidence and connect it with a straight line to the character trait.
- Older students can make a character trait/evidence spiral. Write the trait in the middle of a sheet of paper. Underline the trait. When you get to the end of the word continue drawing your line but curve it around so it circles the word. Keep drawing the line so it loops or spirals around to the desired length. Make sure you have enough room to write a few examples of evidence.
How do you use character traits to enhance self-esteem?