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Building My Son's Self-Esteem

When my child was identified with LD, I worried about how I was going to build and maintain his self-esteem.

By Fellissa Richard

A few years ago, I noticed my 15-year-old son was struggling with spelling, writing, and remembering words. After reading up on the subject, I began to suspect Buddy might have dyslexia. I talked to his teachers about my concerns, and, shortly after that, the school tested him. The results showed he had a learning disability (LD) in written language.

After his LD was identified, Buddy questioned his abilities even more. He said he felt more "stupid" than ever. He wanted to give up, and I started to panic. I worried about how I was going to build and maintain his self-esteem and motivate him to do well in school. How could I help him overcome his misperceptions about his LD?

Motivating My Son

Throughout the past three years, I've tried to figure out what works and what doesn't. I've learned that what may work one year doesn't necessarily work the next. This hasn't been easy, but I know what I need to do to support Buddy, even on those days that don't go smoothly for either of us.

  • Talk to him. I often talk to Buddy about LD. I show him examples of the many successful people who've learned to manage its challenges. I let him know LD doesn't discriminate; people from different cultures and backgrounds have similar problems. I phrase it positively and let him know he's not alone.
  • Focus on how smart he is. Every chance I get, I let Buddy know how smart I think he is and what I believe he can accomplish. As a team, his school and I developed a system that works well. Each day, Buddy brings home an assignment chart we review together. This gives us a starting point to help him be successful with his homework assignments. Because I believe in him, he's learning to believe in himself.
  • Identify his strengths. I try to appreciate everything Buddy does well. I often remind him of his many talents. He's an outstanding artist and musician. One day at a music store, he just picked up a guitar and started playing it without ever taking a lesson. Not many people are able to do that!
  • Celebrate his successes with words. I don't believe in buying gifts for every achievement. Kids really need to talk to their parents and be able to express their feelings in a safe environment. Buddy gets constant reminders that I'm proud of him. He knows he has my support. I try to recognize his small successes, as well as his big achievements.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

12/17/2009:
"What is a good thing to say or do when my child wants to give up because no matter how hard she tries to study, nothing seems to change? Need advice please. Do you have educational recommendations for us regarding what type of external help to get? I cannot home school."
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