Self-concept is a description of how one sees oneself. It is during the preschool years that a child’s self-concept is rapidly forming; Children are beginning to compare their abilities to that of their peers. By providing tasks that are slightly more difficult then what they can already do, teachers help children develop an ‘I can do this’ attitude which builds their self confidence and in turn their sense of self or self-concept.
How a person sees himself or herself may not be an accurate description but IT IS an accurate statement of what they believe. In 1977 Albert Bandura coined the phrase, “Self-Efficacy”. It is a positive view of self and confidence in your own strengths and abilities. Self-Efficacy is all about the choices that we make and the effort that we put into a project or task that we are working on. It is about ones personal belief in self and how we confront obstacles or failure. “Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure”. (Albert Bandura). When one feels positive about who they are, they are more apt to believe that they are capable of mastering new challenges.
By helping children develop self-efficacy or a positive self-concept, we are helping them to strengthen their resilience. Resilience is an important part of self-concept as it is the ability to be flexible and to hold inner strength in a given situation. It is the belief that I am capable of solving my own problems. A person that believes they are capable will have a more positive attitude and perspective on life and life’s challenges. They will be more motivated to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. Children are not born resilient. They do best when they are in safe environments with people they know love them unconditionally.
Self-concept plays a big part throughout our lives. It affects how we view ourselves, causing us to enjoy life or worry about life. Self-esteem can be high in one area of your life (sports) and low in another (math skills). It is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. Children learn that not everybody is good at everything but everybody is good at something. It is our job as educators to help every child in our care to see themselves as a learner, capable of many things, and an important member of the classroom. All children need love and trust. All children need the ability to try out new things. This is how young children develop a positive sense of self.
People are born with different temperaments. It is wired into who we are. Some people are more difficult and feisty; some are cautious and slow to warm up; and some people are flexible and have an easy spirit. As educators we must respect each child’s temperament and build a responsive caring relationship around it. Through conversations at meals and play, children learn to see that each of them is unique and has special interests and strengths. There is an old saying; “Every Square has at least four good points”. Find the four good points in each child and then help the children see the points in themselves and each other.
WAYS TO PROMOTE SELF-CONCEPT
- Self-talk as you model how to do something that is a new task or activity to the child.
- Place unbreakable mirrors throughout the room so children can see themselves involved with a task (one in blocks, drama, science).
- Teach the children to serve themselves at meal times.
- Display children’s work at eye level. Keep samples of children’s work so that you can show them their improvement over time. (Look, in Nov. you used scribbles to write your name, now you are making the A and the l)!
- Let children do for themselves as much as possible (toileting, dressing for weather, cleaning up their work area).
- Display pictures of your children involved in their play or work tasks.
- Find times throughout the day for the children to make their own choices and decisions.
- Pair a child who has already developed a certain skill with one whose skill is just emerging.
- Set up experiences that are slightly above what the child is now capable of doing. (Scaffolding to encourage emerging skills).
- Plan activities that can be done on many levels. Scaffolding. (Pattern play with ABAB, ABBA, ABC, etc.).
- Having peers work and play near one another (if he can do it so can I).
- Give verbal encouragement as a child works to master a new skill or task.
- Support the children in their explorations. Encourage them to try new things, new foods, and new tasks by introducing them into the classroom environment.
- Post the children’s names about the classroom. Seeing one’s name in the classroom let’s the children know they are supposed to be there.
- Keep a consistent schedule so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and what to expect to happen next.
- Ask children for their input into what song to sing next, what book to read, or where on the playground they want to go.
- Encourage children by displaying a positive attitude in the classroom. (I knew you could, look at you go, you must be so proud).
- Acknowledge when you see a child working hard or they are doing something good.
- Tell children how their behavior conforms to classroom expectations (thank you, you put all the people back in the people bucket).
- When it comes to art or creative expression, it is about the process and doing and not about the product.
- Acknowledge the interests and strengths of the children through conversations and experiences.
- Promote laughter and singing in your classroom (who can’t help feel good then?)
- Share positive things about the child to their parents. Talk about the differences between home and school expectations.
- If you have multiple cultures within your classroom, learn about each cultures taboos and respect that cultures values. (Some cultures feel that touching another’s head is a sign of disrespect. Some cultures feel that children should not look directly into the eyes of adults. Some cultures feel that wet toilet paper belongs in the garbage and not to be flushed).