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School Counselor Tasha Clark-Joseph in front of her “self-affirmation display”/ Photo credit: Tasha Clark-Joseph

Skip the mall this spring and grab a mirror.

Instead of letting the day dwindle trying to find the perfect gift for a child, let them write self-affirming words about themselves and post them on a mirror. Tasha Clark-Joseph, a public school counselor, did just that.

Following her belief in the power of self-affirmation, and personal childhood experience with negative self-talk, Clark-Joseph mounted a large mirror in the corner of her counseling office and created a vision board tailored just for her students at Pennell Elementary school.

Headed at the top of the mirror were the words “You are,” followed by the words, “Going to make it. Talented. Smart. More than a conqueror. Special. Awesome. Chosen. A winner. Loved”, and finally, “Unique.” Clark-Joseph took a photo of the display and shared it on social media , declaring, “the public school system might not allow the Bible to be used or referenced in school, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use the Word to encourage and change lives.”

Clark-Joseph, who put the display up in mid-September, said that other teachers in Pennell Elementary use some kind of words of affirmation in their classrooms as well.

Students flocked to the display to get a good look at themselves and proclaim their new image, but the concept of using self-affirming words in the classroom to build self-esteem in children isn’t new. Self-affirmation displays can also be fashioned in any shape or form.


Self-affirming words build self-esteem 

Janelle Cox, an elementary education expert and contributing writer to and TeachHUB magazine, said that students who lack confidence always question their abilities. However, teachers have a powerful influence on their students and can help them feel confident through various teaching strategies so they can become secure about themselves and learn new material.

Some of the teaching strategies Cox recommends are:

  • Offer praise and acknowledge students’ accomplishments, both in private and in front of their classmates
  • Give students the opportunity to choose what they learn
  • Create opportunities for students to succeed by building on their strengths.

For elementary school students, Cox suggests that teachers have students draw or paste a picture of themselves on the middle of a piece of paper and ask them to write or draw all of the things that they like about themselves around their picture. Students can also add to the picture every time they think of something new that they like about themselves. For middle school students, Cox suggests that teachers challenge students to choose one thing that they would like to get better at and give them a timeframe to accomplish this task.


Learning strengths and weaknesses builds competence

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Robert Brooks, PhD, who is on the Faculty at Harvard Medical School, said that teachers and parents should help children understand their unique strengths and weaknesses. Brooks stated that each child has “islands of competence,” or areas of strength, that must be identified, reinforced, and displayed by educators. A strength-based model recognizes the importance of using the child’s strengths as an important component of any intervention program.


Children can build their own self-esteem

Children also build self-esteem and resilience when they contribute to their world and to the well-being of others.

Here are some ideas parents can help build self-esteem in children at home:

  • Value your child as an individual with unique strengths, needs, interests and skills
  • Don’t compare your child to another peer, or sister/brother
  • Help your child build decision-making and problem solving skills
  • If your child doesn’t participate in team sports, promote individual sports, or an activity (swimming, tennis, cheerleading, science club)
  • Communicate confidence in your child and in his future
  • Promote the positive aspects of the child’s behavior or performance

There are several ways you can help build self-esteem in children. Help your child see his potential by letting him write affirming statements about himself, and watch him soar.

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