Self-esteem determines your child's ability to make decisions, express their needs and build healthy relationships. Children need healthy self-esteem to believe they can succeed in life.
Unfortunately, if your child has ADHD, chances are they have low self-esteem. It’s essential to create a plan to improve how they think and feel about themselves.
If you feel overwhelmed by the task or you're worried about your child's self-esteem, don't hesitate to reach out because the team at THINK Neurology for Kids can help. In the meantime, this blog gives you a place to start.
ADHD crushes self-esteem
Children develop self-esteem based on their school performance, relationships with peers, and their relationship with their parents.
They want to do well and meet expectations, but then ADHD steps in, leading to poor school performance, difficulty making friends, and feeling like the bad kid who disrupts family life.
Who wouldn't have low self-esteem when every day someone tells them to sit down, pay attention, be quiet, or finish the task (hopefully in nicer terms)?
Low self-esteem combined with ADHD sets children up for failure:
- If they feel stupid (because ADHD makes it hard for them to concentrate or finish their work), they believe they are stupid.
- If your child feels worthless (because ADHD behaviors disrupted the class or ruined a family outing), they believe they are worthless.
- If children feel they're not good enough (because their ADHD leads to daily mistakes and performance failures), they believe they will never succeed.
For all these reasons, parents need to focus on ways to help their children feel valued and capable of success.
Three tips to improve self-esteem
Here are three things you can do to boost your child's self-esteem:
Focus on the positive
Parents and teachers put tremendous time into helping children with ADHD build skills and improve behaviors. While that's essential, it places attention on the negatives. Your child internalizes it as proof they can't do anything right.
You can offset this problem by focusing on the positives. But be careful about how you do it. Frequently tossing out generic praise sounds phony and makes a child with low self-esteem feel worse.
The secret is to catch them in the act and give immediate, specific feedback on what they just achieved. Don't wait to give them praise; look for opportunities to offer authentic praise. And don’t just say "good job;” be specific.
As soon as your child completes a task, comment on something uniquely positive about that task. You may say things like:
- You finished that math problem without taking a break.
- You chose a beautiful vibrant color and stayed within the lines
- You followed directions and took your dish to the sink without a reminder
These are all specific, observable, and measurable terms. Your child sees what they did and knows they performed well. And they know you noticed.
Use their strengths to build a vision
You can improve self-esteem by identifying your child's strengths and using them to spark hope for future success.
Think about the daily effort demanded of your ADHD child to stay organized, focused, and well-behaved. Then ask yourself, would you keep working so hard if every day ended with failure and you didn't have hope that things could get better?
Your child has strengths and dreams, but all too often, they're lost in the daily struggle. Notice what they enjoy and where their passions lie. Identify what they do well and talk with them about why they enjoy it and what makes them so good at it. Then nurture those strengths to keep building success.
Create a reward system
All too often, kids with ADHD believe they should immediately succeed at something that takes many steps to achieve. Then their self-esteem drops when they're not successful.
A reward system allows your child to work toward a goal and learn that success comes one step at a time. You can use reward systems to teach any skill or behavioral change, whether your child struggles to get organized, needs to learn how to prepare a meal, or is working toward anger management.
You identify the goal, break it down into steps, and create a chart showing what they must do each day to reach the goal. Then you put a star or sticker on the chart every time they achieve the step. They get visual proof that they're succeeding, and at the end, they have a new skill.
It's also crucial to build in rewards at certain steps along the way and when the goal is finished. This makes the accomplishment concrete and helps motivate changes.
If you have questions about the impact of ADHD on your child's self-esteem and how to help, call THINK Neurology for Kids or book an appointment online today.