Children with ADHD need to develop self-esteem: love, acceptance, firmness, consistency, and the establishment of expectations (Hamachek, 1987 p.248). Love and acceptance indicate to the child that the people involved in his care want the best for the child. Firmness and consistency provide the rules and consequences for breaking them. Such limits provide a safe and predictable world in which to live. Establishing high but reasonable expectations indicates confidence in the child’s abilities. As the child succeeds in meeting those expectations, self confidence increases.
Many children with ADHD have problems in school and with teachers and sometimes have difficulties at home. They find it difficult to make and keep friends.
People often don’t understand their behavior and judge them because of it. They disrupt situations, often gaining punishments, so they may find it easier not to bother trying to fit in or do work at school.
All this means children with ADHD often feel badly about themselves. They might think they’re stupid, naughty, bad or a failure. Not surprisingly, their self-esteem takes a battering and they find it hard to think anything positive or good about them.
The role of parents and teachers are of great significance in determining children’s self-concept. Children are able to grow in self-confidence, personal competence, and independence if they can develop 5 basic attitudes, involving security and trust, identity, belonging, purpose and personal competence (Reasoner, 1983, p.55). Parents and teachers have specific roles and responsibilities in helping children develop these five basic attitudes.
Security and Trust. This first step in helping the child develop self-esteem is to set well-defined limits, that is, what is expected in terms if behavior and what has to be done to get approval. Limits need to be enforced with consistency by all involved adults. In children with ADHD, systems such as checklists, charts, and calendars can serve as reminders of what is expected. Preparing the child for what to expect if standards are not met is also effective in encouraging desired behavior and discouraging misbehavior.
Identity. Children with ADHD need to feel they are unique. A child’s identity is strengthened when the child is given positive feedback, recognition of strengths, love and acceptance, and help in assessing strengths and shortcomings. Positive feedback It should be taken and given impersonally, without criticism and without giving a letdown feeling to the child. Criticism is also necessary. Its the other part of making the child feel loved. This means being calm, not angry, and focusing on the behavior want to change instead of criticizing the person. It also helps finding positive things to say to balance the criticism. Using ‘I’ tends to be less aggressive than ‘you’.
Belonging. Feeling socially accepted is important to children diagnosed with ADHD. Just as children need to feel unique, so do they need to feel like anyone else. A sense of belonging can be developed through a family that is united. The family unit enables children to learn how to function as group members, to learn that they cannot always be first or have their way, and to learn that they need to handle their own share responsibilities. In the family units and in groups, children learn sensitivity and concern for others.
Purpose. Children need a sense of purpose to provide direction to their lives and a basis for success, fulfillment, and, therefore, a positive self-concept. Adults can help a child develop a sense of purpose by setting reasonable expectations, by helping the child set realistic goals, by conveying faith and confidence in the child’s ability to achieve the goals, and by helping the child expand interests, talents and abilities.
Personal Competence. A sense of personal competence grows out of a sequence of success. This gives the child a feeling of being able to cope with the problems or meet goals. Children with a sense of personal competence have a positive approach to solving problems, tend to achieve success, and feel responsible for their own actions.