Classroom, Curriculum, Elementary, High School, Junior High, school

Tips for Supporting Students with Low Self-Esteem

Some of the students we see each day have extremely low self-esteem. These kiddos often have a bad habit of putting themselves down a lot.

I personally see this quite a bit with students diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. These students often frequently put themselves down and make negative comments about themselves to teachers and peers.

They can also try to minimize themselves and appear “invisible” with poor personal care and posture due to their low self-esteem.

I hate seeing this, and I’m sure you do, too. It’s so sad to see our students fee so badly about themselves, so any strategies we can use to help them are so important.

Here are some of the best tips I have to help support these kiddos.

Structure for success

Most important, in my humble opinion, is to give students work they are able to complete. When they fail, that’s just going to contribute to the negative feelings they already have about themselves. It’s a vicious cycle these students can get into with themselves.

Start with work they can do no problem to boost their confidence. This will get them going and remind them that they can complete work and are smarter than they think. But, don’t keep doing this for too long. Not only will they start to get bored, they’ll recognize really quickly if the kids around them are doing harder work. Then, you’ll get them thinking that they’re stupid and saying things like “you give me easy work because I’m stupid”.

Instead, start to very slowly increase the level of difficulty of work you’re asking the student to complete. And make sure you’re working very closely with them as you up this level. This way, you can help them through challenges and remind them of all the past work they’ve been able to complete.

The biggest thing you want to do is ensure the student will not fail, without making them feel inferior or “dumb”.


If you always have multiple choice tests, but a student overthinks and does better writing their knowledge, switch how you test them. If they’re an excellent artist, allow them to draw you a picture with a written explanation. Do they love video? Give an assignment where they make a commercial.
There are a ton of ways for kids to show you their knowledge, so avoid always using ways which they’re weaker in.

I like to give my kids choice boards, or at least a few different options, when completing assignments or skill building activities. This way, they can pick an option which works with their unique skill set, and the whole class is choosing different options, so none of the kids feel different or singled out.

Use skills to build a success program

Just like above, if the student you’re working with is significantly behind and really struggling, it’s beneficial to program specifically around their strengths.

There are a lot of different options you can do here. Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways for students to show you what they know that don’t include what we automatically think of when we think of testing.

Students could create a photo diary, be tested orally, write music, create art, make videos, and so on. They can write about topics of interest rather than generic prompts.

There are a ton of different ways to be creative here without compromising the integrity of the curriculum. It just takes some creativity!

You can even work with the student to discuss what they’re strengths are and create lessons and assignments based on that!

Teach growth mindset

Students often come to us without a growth mindset, which can leave them stuck in a negative self worth loop.

It can be very difficult to teach our students how to think about their learning and growth, but it’s well worth it.

Start by checking in with your students while they work. Ask them pointed questions about how they’re progressing, what they’re stuck in, what they’ve been able to do, and so on.

You should start by really supporting the student with this, but before long they should be able to self-question in order to figure out how to move forward. This is an important skill because, rather than get stuck in a negative self talk loop, they’ll begin to question what they are missing and be able to find answers themselves. Recognizing their own ability to problem solve is a huge accomplishment which will help them from self pitying words and behaviours.

Whenever you see or hear the student questioning how to move forward, making improvements, and problem solving, make sure you reinforce it right away. They need positive influences to encourage their growth and let them know how smart they really are!

Give positive recognition

Finally, one of the most important things you can do with students who put themselves down is to provide them with positive recognition.

They need to really see all of the things they are able to do and how many strengths they have.

They also need to know how important trying and not giving up is.

Try to do this in front of peers as well. Not only does this encourage a positive classroom environment, when other students witness adults pointing out kids’ strengths, they’re more likely to notice that in their peers as well.

Obviously, make sure you’re pointing out all your students’ skills and strengths! The positivity is infectious and they’ll all, hopefully, begin to praise one another and try to do better themselves!

What do you think about these tips? Have you used any yourself? Are there any major ones I’m missing? Let me know!

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