Hunched over desks, keyboards, and screens, the children in our lives have as much exposure to learning bad posture as we do. Is it just as important for their self-esteem to be taught good posture and ergonomics as it is for their growing bodies? New research says that body posture has a huge psychological effect on children, and it can be a valuable way to add confidence to the classroom.
Body language is hardwired into our brains from a survival standpoint. Children interpret body language from others from the age of 5, but they may be unaware of how their own body posture can influence how they feel. Crossing arms could become a habit that children don’t even think of as a reason why they may still feel self-protective or scared. It’s important to teach children that uncrossing the arms makes us more receptive to what’s going on around us and also signals to those around us that we can relax. This feedback, in turn, relaxes us and promotes congeniality in our social groups.
Likewise, confidence can be tied to posture. Masterful positions (such as holding your head high, keeping shoulders back) were the focus of a study from Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and the Otto Friedrich University of Bamberg last month. They studied the effect that so-called “power positions” have on children’s self-esteem in school.
With volunteer fourth graders, the differences between open postures with arms open versus closed postures with folded arms and downward glances was put to the test. The students were asked to maintain their postures for one minute and then were given psychological assessments about mood and confidence.
Not surprisingly, the students who had an open posture for just one-minute reported feelings of self-confidence, better mood, and higher self-esteem.
The study has some interesting implications for promoting proper body movements at school and helping children recognize when their own subconscious postures can make a difference. It reminds me of when I worked with scared dogs who tucked their tails. In some cases, simply holding their tail upright for them for just a few seconds was enough for them to feel better about themselves, and they kept their tails up on their own afterwards. You could see their mood change for the better instantly.
We could all benefit from remembering to put our best foot forward and keep our heads held high.
Robert Körner, Hannes Köhler, Astrid Schütz. Powerful and confident children through expansive body postures? A preregistered study of fourth graders. School Psychology International, 2020; 014303432091230 DOI: 10.1177/0143034320912306