5 Tips for Building Self Esteem in Children With Learning Disabilities

I’ve mentioned before that my second oldest son Jordan has a learning disability that keeps him from being able to function on grade level in school. I have made the decision to homeschool him this coming year and I think that will go a long way towards helping him make progress. When a child has a learning disability however, it is easy for them to get discouraged. After years of failing and not being able to do the same thing as their peers or siblings, their self esteem begins to go down. I have watched Jordan’s self confidence suffer as the years go by, but there are some things that can be done to help self esteem rise in children with learning disabilities.

Celebrate Small Successes

With learning disabilities, it is all about the small successes or advancements. Did your child read a word straight through that they had previously been sounding out each time? Be sure to celebrate it. Letting them know that you see their efforts and that they have made a small step forward will encourage them to keep trying.

Find Something They’re Good At

This can be another school subject or an extracurricular activity. Finding your child’s strengths and getting them actively involved in them can help build confidence and overshadow what they view as their failure.

Let Them Know it is Okay to Fail

Normally we do not tell our children it is okay to get a failing grade. Often, children with learning disabilities who are working below their current grade level can’t help it though. I have studied with Jordan for an entire week for hours a day and have seen him still fail a test. Letting them know that their brains work differently and that failing grades are okay as long as they try their best, can help take some of the sting away.

Never Punish for Bad Grades

When report cards come out in our home, things work a little differently for Jordan. While the others boys may get grounded for a bad grade on their report card, Jordan does not. Let me rephrase that. As long as I have seen Jordan trying his hardest, behaving in class and completing all his work, he does not get in trouble. Punishing a child with a learning disability when they are trying their best is not going to help their self esteem at all.

Never Disparage Their Effort

Throughout the years in school, the one thing that can make me angrier than anything else, is the teacher’s insistence that “Jordan could do it if he just tried.” I know that my child only reads about 23 words per minute and is reading on a 2nd grade level. When he is at the end of 3rd grade, fussing at him at school, telling him he is not trying and insisting that he could do it if he really tried is hurting him more than these teachers realize. If you see your child putting in the effort consistently, do not let others who do not truly understand learning disabilities disparage their effort.

I do not claim to be an expert on parenting, learning disabilities or anything else in life. I do know from experience though that low self esteem is something that can haunt a child their entire lives and keep them from reaching their full potential. The tips above are some that I personally use to help my child feel better about themselves. Have any tips of your own? Feel free to share them below.


  1. These are really great tips. I think the most important is celebrating even the smallest successes.

  2. I think a parent should always suggest a child do their best rather than telling them to bring home straight A' or something to that effect. That way, it's not too much pressure.

  3. Kathleen congrats on choosing to home school. I applaud you for doing what works for your child. Too many children get left by the wayside because they are not academically on the same level as their peers. Unfortunately most teachers don't have the time to individually give to each child. Again congrats and I can't wait for your progress reports.

  4. You know your child best, so I understand how you'd get aggravated. I'm sure homeschooling will be a wonderful thing for him!

  5. these are great tips for every child, not just one with a learning disability.

  6. Great tips, my son has a small learning disability and it can be frustrating at times.

  7. Great tips – especially
    Never Punish for Bad Grades

    So important I feel for parents to realize who have children with learning disabbilities

  8. Concentrate on the positives, remember that your child is really trying to please you so when he/she falls a bit help them to get up and try again.

  9. That's really nice advice. Thank you. In my experiences as a parent, low self-esteem can affect children of all levels of ability, and when it does it can be crippling. I have been considering home-schooling one of my children in order to avoid such problems. It is a difficult decision to make and it is good to hear of others doing the same. I wish you all the best.

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