Promoting Self Worth

Recently a parent asked for some reading material as his daughter had been cheating & lying. He was wanting to find out more to help parent through this situation.

I sent him this video: (It is a 40min watch and worth it)

and recommended Ana Homayoun‘s book, ‘The Myth of the Perfect Girl’.

With further reflection, I pondered my own indiscretions in this area.

Coming from a successful school background, with successful parents and being the first person in my entire extended family ever to go to University (a huge deal), my journey was not the plain sailing I imagined it would be.

I loved student life – the freedom, friendships and the learning. I was living my childhood dream to become a teacher. Half way through my first year I suddenly faced a very unfamiliar situation. I felt alone, humiliated, shamed. I didn’t tell anyone from embarrassment and fear of what they might think of me. I failed an Education 101 paper!

Everyone around me seemed to have it easy – they were passing with far less effort than me. I didn’t know what to do. My major thought and concern was, what if my parents find out?  They would be so disappointed in me. Maybe they would love me less. I knew they had worked hard to ensure I could follow my dreams and I had let them down.

What could I do? At this point some people turn to alcohol, drugs, fast cars, self harming, sex.. anything for some escapism. I choose a different route… cheating. The next assignment just happened to be the same topic that had been set the previous year. I found a student a year ahead of me and asked to borrow her assignment to ‘check I was on the right track’. It just happened she has received an ‘A’ for her work. Basically I copied this assignment word for word. I was duly given an ‘A’ which brought my total mark for the year to a passing grade – and no-one knew, especially my parents.

I lived in fear for weeks, while it was being marked, months, before I got the final grade for the year and 3 years, before I was given my degree, that I would be ‘found out’. What if I was expelled from Teachers College and University? What if I was paraded in front of my peers as an example of ‘what not to do or be’? What if my parents found out? The truth is I have spoken about this, over the past 10 years, in many workshops, keynote speeches, webinars and seminars – and still my parents do not know.

The feeling of shame is linked with low self worth. What I lacked were strategies for dealing with failure. I had a mindset that thought I should be a good as everyone else and believed failing was a bad thing. So what can you do as an educator and/or a parent to prepare your child for feeling like they are not enough and to increase their self worth. Below is a quick list of ideas and of course there is an obvious overlap. I have written about some of these before, and they are still relevant.

Ideas for the classroom:

  • Teach students the brain can always keep learning and growing. Learning is a process. Making mistakes and failure is part of this process.
  • Celebrate making mistakes as it means learning can now occur. My goal is to normalise mistakes.
  • Value the process more than the finished result. Ask students to show their working and thinking in ALL subjects, not just Maths. For example, when writing an essay, story, history recount, have students put their draft into a word cloud programme such as wordle.
    Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 1.00.47 pm

    My first Wordle from this blog

    This will allow them to see which words they constantly use. Now ask them to replace these popular words using a thesaurus. (I particularly like Now place the text back into the wordle and see which words stand out. Edit the draft as necessary. The key is that students hand in their wordles along with their final copy to show their thinking and growth over time. Similarly in visual arts, woodwork, sewing etc, have students submit not just the end product, but also evidence of the process, albeit often messy, with photographs, drafts and written reflections about the process.

  • Develop a culture of taking responsible risks and giving new ideas a go (often know you will fail)
  • Explicitly teach students strategies or thinking dispositions to help them move forward when they are stuck.
  • Introduce students to James Nottingham’s Learning Pit and the feeling of learning not always being fun and easy.
  • Ensure the work on the walls shows stages of development and is not just the ‘best’ work.

Ideas for Parents:

  • Talk about your own failures and challenging situations
  • Show your vulnerability so your children know that you take risks, give new ideas a go and make mistakes in the process.
  • Be real – do not pretend all is well when it is not. (Obviously age and maturity appropriate)
  • Show emotions – it is OK to be sad, mad, nervous, confused, frustrated as well as happy, excited, peaceful, hopeful and full of pride for your accomplishments.
  • Create an attitude of gratitude. Each night at the dinner table, discuss those things you are grateful for. Create a gratitude chart where family members record 3 things they are thankful for each day.
  • Encourage mistake making and accept it is part of the learning process
  • Let go of being a perfectionist and expecting everyone else to be the same.
  • Encourage responsible risk taking.
  • Learn something new together – something that takes you way outside your comfort zone. Apologise when you have made a wrong decision, shouted or acted in a way that you wish you had not. It is important for your child to know you make mistakes too.
  • Tell them you love them and back this up with action. This does not mean giving them everything they want. It means holding the boundaries of what if acceptable and what is not.

What would you add to these lists?

***Karen is available to present or facilitate workshops for schools and parent groups, either live or via webinar, on a variety of topics, including Developing Self Worth. To chat about possibilities please email ***

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Published on Friday, February 5th, 2016, under Learning, Life lessons, Parenting

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

5 Responses to “Promoting Self Worth”

  1. Wendy says:

    Compulsory reading for my team.

  2. Hi Karen, thanks for your awesome blog – this article is also very valuable and I’ll be sharing it with my readers. My mum’s an early childhood teacher and put me on to you and I’m so glad she did 🙂

    • Karen Boyes says:

      Hi Emily
      Welcome to my blog – happy for you to share – I am writing a couple more parent blogs at the moment – so make sure you check back or subscribe to the updates and you will be the first to know when they are out!
      Rainbows and sunshine

  3. Jingyi says:

    hi Karen,

    thanks for your sharing. Finally I am on your blog, yeah! I found the blogs you’ve shared so valuable for me as an international student teacher!

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