For posts on bullying, visit The Learn to be Buddies Series Blog.
All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Self-esteem, problem-solving and resilience

Step four in the problem-solving process involves being able to realistically identify what resources you have for dealing with the problem.

If you don’t have a good opinion of yourself or your abilities, you are unlikely to have a good opinion of your own resources. And if you believe you have no resources, then you are likely to just give up or ask for help without trying to solve the problem by yourself.


Self-concept: This is the broad term to describe how children perceive themselves, what they believe about themselves and how they describe themselves (Lynch, Foley-Peres & Sullivan, 2008; MacArthur & MacArthur, 1999).

Self-esteem: A person’s sense of their worth, and how much they respect, appreciate of value themselves translates into the concept of self-esteem (MacArthur & MacArthur, 1999)
This is part of a person’s self-concept.

Self-efficacy: This refers to a person’s belief in their ability or competence in different situations. For example, a child’s belief about their ability in sporting or academic tasks (MacArthur & MacArthur, 1999).

What effects how children perceive themselves?

- The difference between what is their ideal self, or what they think they should be and what they think they are….
For example, if a child thinks they should be able to solve all their problems without help, and they fail to live up to this expectation, this is likely to have a significant effect on their self-esteem and self-efficacy.

- What they take in from others
What they hear and see from others can effect a child’s sense of self. For example, bullying can have a significant effect on a child’s self-esteem (Delfabbro, Winefield et al, 2006). The labels and concept of self as communicated by the bully may become part of the child’s beliefs. The expectations and beliefs held and/or communicated by parents and other family members, teachers and friends can also play a significant role in the development of the child’s beliefs about themselves.

- Other factors…
As reported by MacArthur & MacArthur (1999) there are a range of other factors that can influence a child’s self-esteem or self-efficacy. These include the existence of disabilities, mental illnesses such as depression, obesity, failure or learning difficulties and so on. However, we can do things to mitigate the effects of these.

Helping children believe in themselves

- Give praise and rewards.
Different children respond differently to different things. This is a great blog post on Cranberry Corner that may be helpful.

- Get the child themselves to identify and record their own successes.
Sometimes it is not enough if it just comes from you – their parents or teachers. Getting children or youth to recognise their own strengths will mean that they are more likely to really believe it.
Some ways to do this is to use the idea of a celebration diary or journal. Or, if your child is using social networking (under supervision), then you could use this to have them celebrate successes.
You could also use self-assessment in the classroom or at home. For example, getting the child to recount to you something that they achieved or completed. You then record it on a rewards chart. Each recount is then awarded a number of points. Those points go towards a greater award at the end of the week, or for older children, you may set a longer-term goal.

- Give the child responsibilities, big or small … making sure they are able to fulfil them. For example, peer mentoring or tutoring has been shown to increase a child’s self-esteem and/or self-efficacy (Karcher, 2009). For example, using children in middle school who struggle with literacy to tutor Kindergarten or year one students in basic phonic or reading skills can increase their sense of competence when it comes to reading. It can also help ground them in a strong understanding of the basics of reading. But if we are going to use such programs we need to make sure the students are adequately trained and supervised to ensure benefits for both themselves and the tutees.

Having said that, the responsibilities can also be simple chores or responsibilities. They can be things like taking out the trash, helping to clean up or helping hand out worksheets in the classroom. Such responsibilities can help to build self-respect in children as it is an indication that we respect them.

When it comes to problem-solving.

When you are trying to help children deal with problems, it is important to get a sense of how competent they feel in the situation.

For example, if you constantly solve social problems for your child they may get a sense that they are incompetent to solve the problem for themselves. Instead, you should help the child work through their options and facilitate their progress through the problem-solving process.

Scenario 1:

Jo is playing in the doll’s corner at preschool. Nat arrives, and wordlessly begins to “care for” one of the dolls. Jo begins crying and calling out.

Miss D rushes over. She listens as Jo sobs out the reason for her distress. It seems that Nat has picked up Jo’s favourite dolly, and Jo wants it back.

Miss D talks to Nat, and swaps Jo’s favourite doll with another. She then gives Jo back the doll, and the two children go on playing happily. Until Nat picks up Jo’s favourite doll blanket…..

Scenario 2:

Jo is playing in the doll’s corner at preschool. Nat arrives, and wordlessly begins to “care for” one of the dolls. Jo begins crying and calling out.

Miss D rushes over. She listens as Jo sobs out the reason for her distress. It seems that Nat has picked up Jo’s favourite dolly, and Jo wants it back.

Miss D talks to Jo about what might be the best solution. Together they decide that the best solution may be asking Nat for the doll, and exchanging it with another. Miss D kneels quietly behind Jo, watching as Jo puts the plan into action. Jo puts her negotiating skills into action, and turns back to Miss D with a beaming smile.

“Nat gave me my doll back, and I gave him one, too.”

“That’s right, Jo! That was a good way to get the doll back, wasn’t it?”


Nat and Jo go on playing happily. When Nat picks up Jo’s favourite dolly-blanket, Jo says, “That’s my dolly’s blanket. You can use this one!”

With a little more negotiation and some reluctance on Nat’s part, Jo does get her blanket back with the promise to give Nat a turn later.


This theory applies to any age group…. It is only with practice that we build confidence in our own abilities.


Delfrabbro, P., Winefield, T., Trainor, S., Dollard, M., Anderson, S., Metzer, J., and Hammarstrom, A. (2006). Peer and teacher bullying/victimization of South Australian secondary school students: Prevalence and psychosocial profiles. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, pp71-90.

Karcher, M. (2009). Increases in Academic Connectedness and Self-Esteem Among High Schools Students who Serve as Cross-age Peer Mentors. Professional School Counselling, 12(4), pp292-299.

Lynch, M.D., Foley-Peres, K.R., and Sullivan, S.S. (2009). Piers Harris and Coopersmith Measure of Self-Esteem: A Comparative Analysis. Educational Research Quarterly, 32(2), p49-.

MacArthur, J.D. and MacArthur, C.T. (1999). Self-Esteem. Retrieved 26th July 2009 from:


Anonymous,  January 23, 2010 at 3:10 AM  

who wrote this article?

Amanda January 23, 2010 at 10:18 AM  

I write everything on this blog, unless otherwise indicated.

About This Blog

You are welcome to browse as you like... but please remember that everything here is copyrighted. To receive printable copies of articles that you can hand out to others, subscribe to the Learn to be Buddies newsletter at

Copyright Amanda Gray 2009-11

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP