Montessori Minute ~ Positive Self Image

Montessori Minute

How Does a Child Develop a Positive Self Image?

imageWe want our child to be confident and ‘feel good about herself’. We want him to welcome challenges, not shrink from them. Every parent wants their child to believe in herself and project that belief. A positive sense of self is highly valued. The meek may inherit the earth. Self-confidence gives us a better chance of success in life.

How can we help our children develop a positive self-image? What can we do to instill in our children the belief that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to? Most of us also want our children to learn to get along with others. Arrogance, smug superiority, and a lack of courtesy are usually not the traits we are shooting for. How can we help children develop self-confidence while learning to respect the rights and abilities of others?

Kids in Montessori schools typically exhibit self-confidence and get along with each other. The Montessori Prepared Environment, with its many learning materials and simple rules the children follow, is incredibly effective in helping children develop confidence in their own abilities and a realization that they share the world and need to respect everyone’s rights. We’ll get back to that.


Start early…

We need to strike while the iron is hot. Proactively giving children certain experiences in their formative years helps them develop positive personality traits. If we want to help our children optimize everything from their brain architecture to their self-image, the early years are when the action goes down. That’s when the brain has the highest degree of ‘plasticity’, the ability to adapt and change. That is the time for action!


Try to be the person you want your child to be…

angry coupleThe first base to cover is us. Those absorbent eyes and minds watch us really closely all the time. Kids are one of life’s great opportunities for self-improvement. If we indulge in being timid, moody, negative, depressed, angry, insensitive, arrogant, hypercritical, and prone to verbal complaining and nastiness, guess what our children will learn? If we expect the world to accommodate our negative side and don’t at least try to change, that is what our kids will do. No one is perfect in this world. Still, we can do our best to model the behaviors we want our children to develop, without denying or disguising our faults. They will see that we’re making the effort and being honest. Kids pick up on that. They understand more than we realize, they just can’t explain it yet. Photo: Shutterstock

Montessori and other preschool Teachers learn behaviors that make them, hopefully, good role models for the children in their care. Should we just ship our kids off and depend on them? I’m a big parent advocate. I believe parents can take up the cause of being better role models, just as Teachers do. What can it hurt us to try to be better people?


Indulgence vs. accomplishment

Years of preschool teaching taught me this very clearly:

Children do not develop a positive self-image because we pamper them, constantly tell them they are smart and great, make no demands on them, or always ask them how they feel.

What gives children self-confidence is mastering actual skills and learning useful information. This makes them feel genuinely competent and confident.

imageWhen it comes to developing self-confidence, mastering pouring rice without spilling and learning all the geometric shapes works better than telling a child a thousand times how smart they are. Young children are internally programmed to learn to function in this world. When we help them do that, we help them develop a positive self-image. They have to do it on their own.
Photo: Julie Josey

Self-image is formed from a child’s experiences. If a young child is criticized, belittled, not allowed to try things, and treated as if all they require is being entertained by a TV until they are ready for school, that child will not have a positive self-image when the time comes. It requires specific kinds of positive experiences.image

imageOne really beautiful thing that Montessori and other good learning experiences do is give a child a series of small successes. Each time a child tries a new activity that is initially challenging and with effort masters it, she experiences tangible success. Multiply that experience a few hundred times as the child uses many different learning materials and you have a child who expects to be successful in whatever he sets out to do. This is a powerful state of mind; and one of the primary benefits of early learning activities. Photos: Julie Josey

Learning materials help young children experience the ‘success sequence’. They are shown a new material. It looks hard and they wonder if they will be able to do it. Their curiosity and internal drive to develop draws them to it like a bee to honey and they go at it. They make mistakes, but they keep trying. Eventually, they master the material or activity. Success!

imageA child who progresses through this sequence many times in the most formative years of life develops a positive self-image that becomes an integral part of their personality. When they are older, these children become adults who are not intimidated by challenges, they welcome them. They don’t remember why, it’s just who they are. This is the incredible power of early learning.
Photo: Shutterstock

Provide experiences that build a positive self-image

If you can afford a Montessori school or other quality preschool program, go for it. If you need daycare, try to find a program that has a strong preschool component. Find out about their activities, the staff’s training, and talk to other parents. If it doesn’t feel right or they don’t want you to talk to other parents, walk away.

Do early learning activities at home. For at least those few, rapidly moving years between birth and six, consistently devote time to helping your child develop a positive self-image. The Montessori At Home! eBook costs just $8.95, and shows you how to do this for about the cost of a Starbuck’s Latte a week over a 2-3 year period. I wrote it to show parents how to be effective in helping their children reach more of their true potential.


Turn off the TV. Read with your child every day. Provide early learning materials and activities. Do lots of different things as a family. Play with your kids. Do iPad apps. Get your child together with other children and help them learn to interact in positive ways. Just taking the time is the first step. If you get into it, a whole new world of understanding of who your child really is will open up. Those early years are gone before you know it, make the most of them.

John Bowman is the author of Montessori At Home! and Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain.

© 2011 John Bowman, Montessori At Home!

My thanks to John for writing this extensive article for us here at 1+1+1=1! I invite you to ask him any questions you may have in the comments below and he can hopefully answer them for you. If you have an article you hope he will write for us in the future, please let us know in the comments also! Be sure to let him know if this article was helpful-we all love encouragement, right?


You can also visit his new amazing website to read even more!

Did you miss earlier Montessori Minute Posts?