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Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Internal vs. External Control

As educators, we are responsible for several children all at once. We are tasked with managing their health, safety and learning. To do that, we need to maintain a certain amount of control of our group. This allows us to avoid chaos and the stress that comes with it.

As professionals, we need to recognize our limits and learn how to manage the children without becoming overly dominant or controlling. Somewhere there is aPromoting Positive Self Esteem in ChildrenInternal vsjpg perfect balance, but what does it look like?

We play a critical role in helping young children develop impulse control and socially acceptable behaviours.

Managing vs. Controlling Children

One aspect of management is, indeed, control. Classroom management requires that we assume control of the environment. Behaviour management requires that we take control of the behaviour of the children in the classroom.

As professionals, we achieve these responsibilities by using skills. If telling children to sit still and be quiet were sufficient to manage a classroom, our work would be a breeze.

Little humans learn through repetition and practice. Teaching is complicated. Particularly when you consider that all of us have different learning styles, we will try many strategies before finding what brings balance and calm to our children.

Teaching and Developing Children

When we attempt to control a child, we can be guaranteed poor outcomes.

The only person we have total control over is ourselves. We cannot take control of another’s behaviour or emotions. Nobody can control emotions or actions other than that person. You can’t make me happy or unhappy - though you may set up an environment that lends itself to one or the other.

As long as children have free will, they choose what to do, how to react, and how they feel in no small degree.

Think about the last time you tried to get a child to stop crying? They may eventually be able to reign in their emotions, but not merely because they are told to do so. Commanding them to stop emoting may suppress their feelings, but it does not mean they stop feeling what they feel.

Commanding a child to stop fidgeting may get short-term results, but what happens when you aren’t present? This is internal versus external control.

Ultimately, children need to internalize the skills to manage their behaviour and emotions. Otherwise, they rely on external circumstances and control to do so.

Teaching and managing children is more likely to result in the long-term changes that you want for the children. Allowing them to learn, choose, and accept responsibility for their choices results in the lessons needed to internalize both skills and confidence.

Internal vs. External Control

Either I learn to manage and control myself, or I need someone else to monitor, motivate and control me.

By teaching children to think critically, make the best choices, learn from mistakes, and fine-tune their skills, we allow them to internalize the skills necessary to succeed.

Adults who lack internal control often develop addictions. They usually require close supervision and external motivation - either positive or negative - and frequent rewards. In relationships, they are often unreliable.

Such people often find themselves in trouble, but it is never their fault. Always, someone else should have, would have, or could have caused their behaviour.

They take no initiative, accept no responsibility, and assume no consequences.

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Using the following process allows you to establish an environment where children can learn, grow, and develop the skills needed to become young adults with positive self-esteem. They’ll have an internal locus of control.

These are the essential steps:

  1. Communicate expectations with accountability.
  2. Get all the adults on the same page.
  3. Be consistent. Follow through and negotiate any changes explicitly.
  4. Allow them to experience the natural consequences that arise from their choices.
  5. Help them learn from their failures and shortcomings.
  6. Encourage good behaviour and avoid reinforcing bad behaviour.
  7. Set up opportunities for success.
  8. No matter what, appreciate them for the unique individual they are.

Each step in the process is critical. Teaching, monitoring, processing and enforcing consequences make this work.

You will likely not see it, but the result will be young adults that have high self-esteem and take responsibility for their actions. They’ll be on the road to greater success and happiness in life.

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