Inner Self-Esteem during
the School-Age Years
School is a social institution, reflecting the culture of which it is a part and transmitting to the young a world view as well as specific skills and knowledge. Children spend years in school as members of a small society in which there are tasks to be done, people to relate to, and rules that define the possibilities of behavior. Such experiences affect several aspects of children's behavior, their sense of self, beliefs about their academic competence, and their conceptions of a social system beyond the family. 1
When children first begin school they are wonderfully confident about themselves. Most children begin school with positive feelings of being smart, capable, and eager to please. When children enter kindergarten, for example, they tend to underestimate the difficulty of a task, believing they can accomplish just about anything. They tend to hold and maintain high expectancies, are less apt to focus on negative outcomes, and view their ability as extremely high. In fact, most kindergartners and first-graders rank themselves at or near the top of their class (their ratings of their classmates mirror the teacher's ratings). What happens to these children?
When talking to children in fourth grade, for example, we encounter a number of children who hate school, who don't like to come to school, who don't try when they are in school. Why? What can parents do to help their children continue on a positive path and feel as good about themselves academically as they did as kindergartners?