Updated: Nov 19, 2019
One of the most common issues I come across when working with children is poor self esteem. We all have times when we feel bad about ourselves. But kids are trying to find their identity. Learning what they are good at and what they aren't. Working out how they are the same and different to others and if this is important. The way we see ourselves as a child can impact how we see ourselves as an adult.
Why self esteem is important Kids who feel good about themselves have the confidence to try new things. They are not overly afraid of making mistakes. They are able to be proud of their effort as they don't hold their worth in their achievements. However because of this they are more likely to try their best. As a result, self-esteem helps kids do better at school, at home, and with friends.
Kids with low self-esteem feel unsure of themselves. They don't try to join in or make friends because they think others won't accept them. They may be susceptible to bullying and be less likely to stick up for themselves. They may give up easily, or not try at all. Kids with low self-esteem find it hard to cope when they make a mistake, lose, or fail. As a result, they may not do as well as they could. It is a vicious cycle.
One strategy that I use to help kids build their self esteem is using the "self esteem bucket"
I explain that we all have a self esteem bucket. There are things that go into our bucket. These are things that make us feel good about who we are.
Try and help them to think of more than just achievements. Ask what do their parents, friends etc like about them? What makes them happy?
Then explain that things can happen that makes holes in your bucket and the good feelings can leak out. These can be things that people say, things that you think or just when things don't work out the way you think they should. Have them write everything that put holes in their bucket.
Make sure you talk through the difficult feelings as you need to. Sometimes a child will say something here that you had no idea would cause them to feel bad about themselves. It is important for you and them to realise what is making them feel bad so that they can learn to do something about it.
We can't leave their buckets with holes. That would just make them feel hopeless. We need to find a way to fix the holes.
Explain that there are ways that we can help ourselves feel better when we spring a leak in our bucket. Talk to them about what they can do to feel better. They might be tempted to say "tell the teacher" if someone is mean. While this may be the right strategy for the situation, it doesn't really help with how they are feeling. Try and get them to come up with ideas of what they can tell themselves in these situations as well as what they can do.
Try and identify plugs that fit the holes. In other words try and guide the child to come up with ideas that will help the situations they already described for when they feel bad.
Once you have all the information it is important to let the child make this project theirs. Let them get creative.
This activity helps them see their strengths, their difficulties and gives them a plan to cope.
A great book that I discovered after doing this activity for years was "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?" By Carol McCloud. This is a lovely book that compliments this technique. This book talks about how we can fill other people's buckets by being kind and helpful. But also we can take from other people's buckets which also takes from our own.