Isn’t it fast how we are nearing the end of the first term of the academic year? With the examinations looming, I think a lot of children (especially those in their transition years) are feeling apprehensive.
And it is completely normal to feel this way. After all, fear is a common response to new challenges or experiences. Children and even adults feel it. When we are thrown a curveball, we often feel uncertain, vulnerable, powerless and anxious. We resist it because this unfamiliar situation strips away our sense of security and control. It is no wonder that one will often choose the path of less resistance- to avoid the unfamiliar. However, this will lead to many missed opportunities. Who knows? You could be really good at something but probably won’t ever know it unless you try. And sometimes, one try isn’t all it takes. It might take more. That’s where grit comes in. However, to be bold enough to take the first step and try (even when knowing you might not succeed immediately), one will need the can-do attitude. Where does this arise from? Confidence.
Research has shown that confident children are better equipped to deal with pressure and responsibility, as well as more eager to rise to challenges. As parents and teachers, we are key players in helping a child to gain confidence. Today, I will share with you how to build a confident child with your choice of words.
1. “I know you have tried your best, and I am immensely proud of that effort!”
It is common to praise a child freely when he or she has performed. However, what about the times when the child has performed less than ideal? Instead of holding back our praises, we should applaud their courage or effort to try anyway. Focus on the journey, and not the destination.
Over at Lil’ but Mighty, we are a firm believer of each individual’s growth. We all start somewhere and no improvement is too big or too small to celebrate. Your positive words of affirmation show the child that you recognise his/ her effort to grow and learn. This will spur him/ her on to try again/ harder. In the long run, the desire to want to try hard will help them build more confidence and growth than just simply doing well.
2. “You did more than just a good job, you….”
We often forget that children are sharper than we think. When positive feedback becomes consistent (telling them “Good job!” all the time), there is a chance that it will lose its effect on them and they may start to ignore the compliments. In fact, some call this “empty praise”.
Show that you are invested in their learning and the journey by providing specific feedback. You can do this by choosing to speak in ways that focus on observation, acknowledgement, appreciation and encouragement. Instead of saying “Good job!” you might want to point out areas which your child has done well and share your pride. For example:
“It was nice that you tried to include some of the new words you’ve learnt into your composition this time!” “You figured….. out!” “I appreciate that you….”
3. “Sometimes we make mistakes, but that is how we learn”
Instead of focusing on the mistake, encourage your child to learn from it. Show him or her that mistakes and failures are not to be feared and they merely open another door for learning. Sit down with your child and go through the errors together. For example, when your child gets their exam papers back, highlight what could be learnt from the errors that she or he has made and tell your child that it is precisely through making such errors now that she or he will gain awareness to avoid it the next time. If it is a knowledge error, tell them that it is good to recognise it now and reassure him or her that there will be time to plug in these gaps before the next exam! Adopt the “next time you can….” approach to help him or her see that he or she can try again and that you are willing to work with him or her to explore ways to learn from the mistakes.
Having said that, as with all things, it is the balance that counts. Excessive and constant praise can lead to a child being over complacent and not able to recognise when he or she needs to work on an area. Short of allowing the praises and glorification of mistakes to be an excuse for children, we should learn to draw the line when necessary.
In conclusion, the right kind of praise and words at the right time, given in the right quantity can help a child but excessive praise may actually be counterproductive.
To be honest, developing confidence does not happen overnight. It takes time and even I struggle with it from time to time. Therefore, the consistent support you provide your child will help him or her to avoid shying away from challenges and in turn, help him or her to become his or her more resilient self!
How do you build confidence in your child? Share in the comments below!