Research and Methods of Improving Elementary School Students' Self-esteem

Peter H. Kopfhammer, Marquette University


One of the most vital and challenging roles of the school principal is to create an atmosphere of learning and trust. Since research indicates that a positive atmosphere is essential for effective teaching and learning, the school principal can help develop a positive school climate by being enthusiastic, encouraging and offering assistance to both teachers and students within the school.

Many children today enter school with damaged self images. They attend school while being exposed to unemployment, alcoholism and dysfunctional family problems which severely hamper their ability to learn. Children with low self-esteem drop out of school, get into substance abuse, become pregnant as teenagers, feel depressed, steal and cheat more, turn to alcohol, and use physical force more than those individuals with high self-esteem.

Students with high self-regard achieve at higher levels. Successful students feel better and take more risks than low self-esteem students. Successful experiences help students feel good about themselves and they then take more and different risks. The more students risk and feel good about themselves, the more esteem rises and the greater the achievement.

Self-esteem does not suddenly appear at age five, ten or twenty-five. Psychologists believe self-esteem begins to develop in infancy. They also believe that children between the ages of twelve and thirteen have the hardest time developing and maintaining a positive self-image.

Three groups of individuals, parents, teachers and peers, provide positive and negative feedback to children. Parents provide the primary source of self-worth. The second most powerful influence comes from teachers, and peers provide the third most powerful influence on children's self-worth. As a result, children usually perceive themselves from the perspective of others and compare themselves to others.