5 top tips to help quiet children with their confidence
Published on: 14 June 2023
Author and teacher Kimberly Whittam shares some tips and some books for helping quiet children to find their voice.
I'm the assistant Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at a secondary school in the heart of Manchester. During my time working with children, I have observed how quiet children are often overlooked.
Children who don't raise their hand in class even though they know the answer, and children who want to try out for the school play or go to football club but are too afraid to join in, are often left in the background while louder and more confident children take the spotlight.
I think that all children deserve to shine so that's why I decided to write a story where the quiet child finally gets to be the main character.
Storm has never liked to stand out from the crowd, but ever since she started Year 7, her life has been full of people telling her she needs to speak up, make friends and be more like her popular big brother.
Then Storm breaks a school record and finds herself the new star of the athletics team. But as she's thrust into the spotlight, her home life and friendships start spiralling out of control, and it's time for Quiet Storm to show that she has something to say.
Just like Storm, quiet children can sometimes let their lack of confidence stop them from joining in. It is often these children who are forgotten about while the more confident children take the focus. I believe that quiet children deserve to thrive too.
Here is a list of strategies I have used in and out of the classroom to support children with their confidence:
- Show that mistakes are a part of life. Often it's the fear of failure that acts as a barrier for children wanting to try new things. By teaching children that making mistakes is part of life, they are more likely to give things a go.
- Practise positive affirmations. I learnt how to give myself positive self-talk as an adult and, if I had developed this skill sooner, I believe I would have achieved far greater things! Instead of saying, "I can't do this", teach them to say, "I can do this" or "I deserve to have this opportunity". There are lots of fun ways to develop positive affirmations. My students love creating affirmation paper chains and mirror messages.
- Build a positive environment. For shy children, the classroom can be a daunting place. Play on their strengths in the classroom. If they are good at science, maybe ask them to help another student who is struggling. By involving shy children in classroom activities such as handing out equipment, you enable them to develop self-esteem in an organic way.
- Give shy children a safe space to practise. Joining an extra-curricular activity or attending a social circle will provide opportunities to develop their confidence in social situations.
- Choose your words wisely! As someone who is shy, constantly being referred to as 'quiet' as if it's a bad thing can start to have a negative impact on self-esteem. When helping children with their confidence, remember to think about how you speak to them about their quiet personality. Being quiet isn't something that needs to be overcome.
You don't have to be loud to have a voice. You simply have to be brave enough to use it.
Three brilliant books that feature confidence
- Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter. Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She's selective mute and finds herself an easy target for bullies. Fed up with the status quo, she starts a blog called Being Miss Nobody. Through her blog she starts to speak up and use her voice - but when it starts getting more views, she begins to question whether she has become a bully herself. This book depicts school life in a realistic way and I believe that many young people will relate to Rosalind.
- Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe. In this brilliant book, we meet Ella, who is facing a heap of worries. She has started at a brand new secondary school, her eczema is playing up and she is keeping a family secret. When popular girl Lydia wants to become her friend, Ella can't believe her luck. But soon, Ella faces a friendship hurdle - Lydia starts to question what Ella is hiding and is also curious about the quiet girl in class too. Read to find out just how far Ella will go to maintain her friendship with Lydia.
- You Have the Power: Find Your Strength and Believe You Can by Leah Williamson. We all remember the summer of 2022 when the Lionesses were crowned the Euro football champions. The captain of the England football team released this brilliant book to show young people that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to when you believe in yourself. In the book, Leah goes through how to become more confident and will motivate you to go after your dreams.
Kimberly has a degree in English with Linguistics and a Masters degree in Inclusive Education and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. She currently works in secondary education and is passionate about giving young people in Manchester space on the bookshelf.
Quiet Storm by Kimberly Whittam is out now.