Building Self-Esteem Through Scouting
Disabilities can sometimes result in experiences of repeated failure and
frustration. This cycle of unsuccessful effort can erode
self-confidence and result in low self-esteem. Scouting can help raise
self-esteem by providing experiences that foster feelings of success and
accomplishment. Scout leaders can assist by creating a positive
outlook, providing tools and strategies for success, and promoting a
caring and supportive environment. These are good principles of
communication for all people with disabilities, not just Scouts.
- Help set realistic goals.
Give the Scouts frequent, specific and positive feedback.
- Scout leaders and Scouts should share a common set of expectations.
Accentuate the positive.
- Do not confuse the Scout (“you are good”) with the behavior (“you did that very well”).
- Feedback should acknowledge good effort and should address areas of suggested improvement.
Remember that frustration is not all bad.
- Focus on strengths to help keep motivation levels high.
- Boost enthusiasm and pride by capitalizing on special talents and interests; nothing builds self-esteem like success.
Recognize that the group matters.
- Allowing Scouts to experience some frustration can be critical
to the learning process. Don’t come to the rescue with a “quick fix,”
but rather provide support and offer to help explore options.
- It may be hard for a Scout to think of alternative ways to approach a
task once frustration has set in. Whenever possible, identify possible
repair strategies before beginning a task as a way to decrease anxiety
and to promote perseverance.
Expect that mistakes will happen.
- Acknowledge a Scout’s important status within the Scouting unit.
Help Scouts strive toward independence.
- Help Scouts to appreciate that everyone makes mistakes. It may help to offer examples to decrease feelings of disappointment.
- Talk about errors and mishaps openly. Try to be objective and to consider the context and setting.
- Explain that trial and error is a valuable part of the learning process.
- Try to encourage independence, particularly with regard to self-help skills and activities for daily living.
- Encourage careful planning, risk taking, and evaluation of
consequences. Start with small decisions and provide feedback as an
For more information on Special Needs Scouting in the Greater St. Louis Area Council, please contact Mary April at 314-256-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Special Needs Program page.