Celebrate everything! Self Esteem needs to be built, brick by brick.

“He’s doing very well. He’s genial and has a great sense of humour”. I knew all those hours watching Porridge wouldn’t be wasted. The ‘genial Harry Grout’ only appeared in 3 episodes.

My own school reports were not always entirely positive.

Back in the 1970s, ‘praise’ was a rare commodity and the great British understatement reigned supreme.

“Not bad” was about as good as it ever got, although ‘not as annoying as your brother’ came a close second.

It was our Little Man’s Parent’s Evening.

Perhaps because he’s autistic, and definitely because he’s 14, the Little Man does not tell us much about what happens at school.

We know the names of some of his classmates and we know that ‘Sir’ is generally regarded as the source of all wisdom and knowledge.

We know he’s highly unlikely to do GCSES anytime soon, and we’re currently not saving up for him to go to University.*

More importantly for us, he goes to school willingly and fairly cheerfully.

We occasionally get some grumpiness and a smidgen of swearing in the morning, but it’s usually aimed at the unaccountable disappearance of his school shoes or his school bag, rather than us.

He’s neither at the top, nor at the bottom of his class in any particular subject or area.

In 1980, Kool and the Gang encouraged us to celebrate. We take their advice whenever we can.

He’s at his happiest doing Design and Technology or completing a project on an iPad.

His teachers don’t ignore what he can’t do easily.

He knows a little bit about the correct placement of apostrophes, and is aware that triangles, circles and squares all have an ‘area’.

Praising a traumatised kid is like chucking bricks into Loch Ness. It can look like absolutely nothing is happening for ages and ages, but eventually you’ll break the surface tension.

More importantly, his teachers find the things he’s good at.

They know the key to learning is building his self esteem.

They know he struggles with public praise, or in fact anything that brings him attention, but with a quiet word, a facial expression or an understated thumbs up, they tell him ‘well done’.

Self esteem is rarely, if ever, innate.

It must be built, brick by brick.

If a child has experienced trauma, and being removed from birth parents is trauma regardless of any other Adverse Childhood Experiences, self esteem is likely to be low or non-existent.

Naches: A Yiddish word meaning you’re happy and proud, especially of someone’s accomplishments.

Academic qualifications are useful, but believing yourself to be ‘valuable’ is vital if you are to successfully negotiate life.

Everyone is valuable, because they are.

*I think Looked after Children are exempt from University fees. I don’t think this is true for adopted kids.

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

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