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Child Behavior Problems, Self Esteem and Trouble at School

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell, studioD

A child's self-esteem and sense of belonging can waver considerably from ages 6 to 10, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Elementary and young middle school students continually step up to the plate -- perhaps with more than a bit of trepidation -- as they face new challenges with their parents, friends and teachers. Certain psychological disorders and learning disabilities can cause a child's self-esteem to take a major hit and cause behavioral issues and problems at school.


The nurturing of inborn talents along with the quality of day-to-day encounters with parents, caregivers, teachers and peers can all impact a child's self-esteem. Self-esteem can go up and down from one day or one moment to the next as a child molds her self-image. A child who's convinced herself that she doesn't hold a candle to her peers can have a hard time solving problems and become anxious and frustrated, explain child development experts at the Kids Health website, published by the Nemours Foundation. Self-depreciating thoughts such as "I'm worthless" or "I never get anything right" can cause a child to become withdrawn, disinterested and depressed in school and at home.

Attenton-Deficit/Hyperactvity Disorder

School can be a uphill battle for a child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Unsatisfactory academic performance, behavioral problems -- including disruptiveness in class, acting impulsively and having a tough time interacting with classmates -- are not uncommon for a child with ADHD, explains HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Acting intrusively, either verbally or physically, can lead to social rejection and can do a number on a child's self-esteem. To add insult to injury, a child with ADHD may also struggle with anxiety disorders and learning difficulties, neither of which help boost self-esteem.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children with oppositional defiant disorder tend to have self-esteem issues because they often struggle academically and have a hard time keeping friendships because they frequently act aggressively toward their peers. Unfortunately, the buck doesn't stop there. Acting hostile, defiant and argumentative toward authority figures, including teachers, can contribute to a toxic classroom setting. Bugging people on purpose, blaming others for their mistakes and instigating annoying and disruptive pranks are common traits in kids with ODD. ODD typically rears its head before a child's eighth birthday and nearly always shows up before adolescence, explains MayoClinic.com.

Learning Disabilities

Inconsistent academic performance and its accompanying emotional struggles can take a toll on the self-esteem of a child with learning disabilities. Visual, writing and memory difficulties are common learning disabilities. Working closely to help kids manage or overcome a learning impairment is critical be­cause being accepted by peers is extremely important to a middle school child and has a major effect on her self-esteem. The emotional beating a kid with a learning disability encounters when she falls short of her expectations often leads to isolation and loss of interest in learning. The school drop-out rate for students with learning disabilities is far greater than that of their non-disabled peers, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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