“If you hear a voice within you that says ‘You cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced ” – Vincent Van Gogh

Struggling at a task that seems easy to others and that you are putting lots of effort in without seeing results can erode self-confidence. That’s why it is important to find ways of building self-confidence in kids who are struggling to read and write.

What is self-confidence?

The Lexico Oxford English Dictionary definition of self-confidence is a “trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgment”. Each of the aspects are quite broad and therefore, there are many ways to increase self-confidence. This trust can be built over time but can equally be eroded over time.

Why struggling readers are at risk?

Kids who are struggling in school are at risk for having low self-esteem. They may start to lose trust in their abilities when they see that others can do easily that which takes them a lot of effort. This can start to erode their confidence. Struggling in school may affect their social interactions as well. If they are less confident, in general, this will impact how they are communicating but on top of that there may be aspects of their disability that impact their communication as well.

Ways to increase self-confidenceSelf- confidence

Find out about Learning Disabilities – As soon as you know that your child has a learning disability, find out as much about it as you can, including strengths and weaknesses. You are then able to teach your child about their learning disability and why it takes them more effort on certain tasks, like reading and writing.

Express Feelings – Giving your child a space to express their feelings is important. They may be feeling a variety of things – anxiety, anger, frustration. They may have a hard time identifying and more specifically, labeling how they are feeling. Spending time teaching them the vocabulary around feelings is an important step to expression as well.

Practice positive self talk – What we tell ourselves, especially when things get tough, matters. Think about the difference between telling yourself “I can’t do this” vs. “I can ask for help” or “I will keep trying”. Practice modeling self-talk and encourage positive ways of expression.

Praise – Sincerely praising your child for their effort and for the areas where they have made achievements, goes a long way to building their trust in themselves. Try to be specific when giving praise. For example, you could say “You read a new word by yourself” rather than just saying “You did a good job today.”

Find your child’s strengths – For some students this will stand out, whereas for others it will be more subtle. Focusing on their strengths will help build their trust in their abilities in that area. Letting them know that we all have our areas of strengths and that no one is perfect will help them to build a more balanced view of themselves and others.

Role models– Finding those who have succeeded though they also faced barriers of a learning disability helps to give students hope that they might achieve and be successful themselves.

One on one time– As for any child, one on one time is helpful in building your relationship. Strong relationships can help build self-esteem.

Further resources

At times, you may need to reach out for the help of others. Check out your local Learning Disabilities Chapter, as they have lots of information on learning disabilities and run a variety of programs. They will be able to point you in the right direction for your area of need.

Building more secure and self-confident children

Students with learning disabilities may be more at risk for low self- esteem. It is important to be aware of what you can do to help build self-confidence. There are resources available if you find that you need more help.

One advantage of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. ” – A.A. Milne