How do I instill confidence in young children?

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A parent asked me this recently. It is a hard, but necessary job to instill confidence in young children both as young learners and young people. Off the top of my head, I told the parent to do these things:

  • Give them choices
  • Give them specific feedback and ways to improve
  • Be positive
  • Make them leaders in something

Young children need to be given choices to feel like they have ownership in decisions about their lives. The way to do choices is to let the child choose between two things you want them to do and make both choices things that the child actually needs to do anyway. You ask the child which one they’d like to do first and which one they’d like to do second. So, both tasks are getting accomplished, but in the order the child wants to accomplish them. This works both at home and at school. When tutoring, I put out two activities that I know I want the student to complete, and I ask which one we should do first. Giving choices will instill confidence.

Young children (and older children and adults) require specific feedback about their performance and they need ideas from the adult about how to improve. Saying, “Good work,” to a child doesn’t really tell them anything. Saying, “Good work on folding your clothes and putting them away,” shows the child that they did exactly what you wanted. Or, if the task was not done correctly, say “Good work on folding your clothes. Next time, remember that your shorts go in this drawer.” This way, the child gets a chance to do the task correctly and feel confident in a job well done.

Be positive about your child’s work at school and at home. Show your excitement about their good grades or their work on household chores. Share their successes with others in the family. Let your children know you are proud of their effort as well as their final performance.

Make your children leaders. This could be anything from a special paper passer job in the classroom to the table setter at home. Explain to your children that their job is important and that they need to be leaders and do the best that they can do. Allow your child to teach you something as a leader. This might be showing you a hard math problem and helping you to do it. Or, explaining the steps to making the bed.

I’m sure there are a lot more ways to instill confidence in young children, but start with these and watch your youngsters’ confidence build daily at home and at school.

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