How to build confidence in your child
Published on: 24 February 2022 Author: Kathy Weeks
Author and confidence coach Kathy Weeks talks parents through how to help children develop the resilience, confidence and courage to face everyday challenges and become whoever they want to be.
Illustrated by Erika Meza
Confidence is what every parent wants for their child. But each child is different and so understanding how to build individual resilience to rise to the challenges they will face in our rapidly changing world is more important than ever.
Harper Drew (the main character in my diary series What’s New, Harper Drew?) knows her own mind. She faces setbacks for sure, like any other child. But she has the inner strength to navigate those and stand her ground when things get a little tough. She has the confidence I wish I had when I was growing up.
So, how to achieve that? From my work in schools and experience in growth mindset, there are certain things that can really help a child build their confidence and resilience.
Reframing success as a journey
We live in a world where we are surrounded by images of seemingly instant success. TV talent shows, and glossy social media photos can make it seem like success should be effortless. This can impact a child’s understanding of how to achieve their goals. And lead them to give up easily if they aren’t perfect the first time they try something new.
The reality is that almost every success story is underpinned by dedication and hard work. And often over a long period of time, where there will be setbacks to overcome. How children perceive success can have a big impact on whether they have the confidence to pursue their goals.
Children who understand that success is a journey, one that takes time and most importantly effort, are more likely to embark on that journey with a positive attitude to the challenges that will inevitably lie ahead. They build resilience and are less likely to give up when things get hard.
Praise children for their effort, as well as their results. Find role models and inspirational people who have achieved great things (they don’t have to be famous), and talk about their effort and the hurdles they overcame along their journey.
Making mistakes is magic
There is a stigma attached to making mistakes. Children often shy away from trying something new for fear of making a mistake, especially if that might be in class, in front of their friends, or somewhere public.
But mistakes are a brilliant way of understanding what we don’t already know. Showing the gaps in our skills or our understanding. So, encouraging children to see mistakes as a positive thing, not something to shy away from is crucial to building confidence.
Talk with children about things that didn’t go quite as well as planned. Discuss it in a positive way to allow them to see this as an opportunity to learn and build for the next time they try.
Kindness is key
Research has shown that small acts of kindness can reduce anxiety and boost confidence in children. Helping others can make children feel empowered. Kindness has a cascade effect too. It builds trust and it also helps to foster a network of people around us so that, in times of change or difficulty, we have people to talk to and to help us out.
Encourage children to think of a small act of kindness or help that can they give each day.
No limits to anyone
The language we use with children can have a big impact upon the way they perceive themselves.
Often, I have heard parents (with the best intentions) refer to their children as "the sporty one" or the "clever one" or the "shy one". These labels can stay with children and ultimately influence their behaviour.
For example: the "shy one" maybe doesn’t feel like they have the confidence to try for the school play; the "clever one" possibly doesn’t want to try a new sport because it ‘isn’t their thing’... Labels can inadvertently place limits on a child’s potential.
Choosing language carefully with children can be important for building their confidence and encouraging them to stetch beyond their comfort zone. For example, ‘you are feeling shy right now’ can shift the focus from shyness being a part of who they are to being something they are feeling but that doesn’t necessarily define them.
If the coronavirus pandemic has showed us anything, it has demonstrated our need to be flexible. We had to adapt, changing our ways of learning, working, and interacting with each other, to cope with the unexpected crisis we faced.
And we will continue to live in a rapidly changing world. For example, most of the jobs that primary school children will go on to do, when they leave school, have not yet been invented. So how do we prepare children to have the confidence to face a world that we can’t imagine yet?
The answer lies in building their ability to adapt and be flexible when things don’t quite go as they had planned. If there are bumps in the road, we need to reframe them as a change we need to adapt to. To be resilient and flexible.
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